This is a special year on Egypt’s calendar. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi chose 2017 to be the “Year of Women.” Egyptian women from all social, religious, and educational backgrounds have been strong assets to the progress of democratization in Egypt throughout recent years. They not only helped the country take necessary steps toward liberal democratization, but also have acted as the safety valve that has kept our nation sane in the center of an insane Middle East.
The intensive presence of women in all major political activities in the past years made the Egyptian leadership realize that democratization is not possible without the proper participation of women—not only as public citizens, but also as decision-makers. The new quota system enabled an unprecedented number of 89 exceptional women to be Members of Parliament. In addition, the number of women ministers increased in February of this year to one-third of the Ministerial Cabinet.
Yet, the most thrilling achievement that Egyptian women have earned is the appointment of the first woman governor this February: Nadia Abdo, an engineer. Ms. Abdo’s outstanding professional biography qualified her to lead as the Governor of Al-Beheira, a governorate with challenging needs and a majority population of farmers and fishermen who have limited access to education and the urban luxuries we enjoy in Cairo.
Since Ms. Abdo’s appointment, the extremist Salafi groups have been angrily protesting the decision and accusing President el-Sisi of acting against God’s Will by choosing a woman to rule over men. Daring to give such a significant blow to extremists by empowering a deserving woman is in itself a promise of a better future for Egypt and for the many young aspiring women who struggle on a daily basis with barren patriarchal social norms and extremist fatwas.