A Real Revolution Includes Women (and Everyone Else)
By: Nawal al-Saadawi Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm (Egypt).
The April 20, 2012 demonstration did not fail to bring together the Egyptian revolution’s national movements, those dedicated to the objectives of the January and February 2011 revolution. Many forces have vainly sought to sabotage these movements by using their power, loud voices, money and even “God’s law.” The best way to sabotage a revolutionary movement is to divide it and scatter the youth, women, men and children into rival teams that are more vulnerable as individuals.
About This Article
In this heartfelt article, Nawal al-Saadawi argues that ploys by those in power to weaken the revolution are no cause for despair. She rejects religious and tribal ties and challenges readers to defy attempts to divide the movement, reminding Egyptians that the inclusion of everyone, including women, is essential to a just and equitable constitution.Publisher: Al-Masry Al-Youm (Egypt)
The Woman’s Voice is a Revolution
Author: Nawal al-Saadawi
First Published: April 24, 2012
Posted on: April 25 2012
Translated by: Rani Geha
Categories : Egypt
Attacking the Egyptian women's movement, or any other individual target, scatters each component of the revolutionary force into smaller groups that are divided over short-term interests. By doing so, the authority can compel these groups to narrow their leadership. Were the authority to succeed in denying women any unified revolutionary movement, the women would then direct their efforts to serving the first lady, her chaperones, and the national council for women.
Any woman (or man) in Egypt who raises her head in dignity and refuses to bow in the face of authority was immediately removed from her post, her reputation smeared. This was characteristic of Egypt’s tyrannical rule.
If the revolutionary forces have this time failed to organize, there is always next time, or the time after that. There is no room for despair, lest we desire to return to square one. In spite of its repeated failures, the revolution cannot succeed without renewed hope. The Egyptian Women’s Union was able to reconfigure itself despite the setbacks it faced during the previous regime. It was able to gather thousands of young women and men of all ages and disciplines to take part in revolutionary organizations and raise the collective voice of Egyptian women after it was muffled by the religious currents. The woman is no longer stuck in the harem tent. She is now in the streets and fields. Her face looks bright under the light. She shouts the slogan "A woman's voice is the revolution, nothing to be ashamed of.” The children are also happy to chant alongside the millions of people, "A woman's voice is climbing higher and higher, in the fields and in the streets."
I remembered my childhood in elementary school. I took part in the demonstrations shouting “Down with the king and the British.” Along with the other girls we added, “Down with the school’s headmistress.” The headmistress then struck the poor student with her ruler and smiled at the rich one. My voice blended with those of other girls and boys, young men and women. We all walked in step. There is no difference between a boy and a girl, a man or a woman. I feel happy from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet — happy about the sense of justice and freedom I feel. Happy about the sense of dignity and individualism. My eyes tear up. My body blurs together with those millions of others. My ego melts into the rest of the crowd. I feel happy being part of the others. I completely lose myself. But my happiness remains in myself and in my person. How can that be?
The happiness I have experienced over the past 60 years of my life resembles the happiness of love, creativity, friendship and fellowship. “Who loses himself, finds himself.” Which philosopher said that again?
Freedom from the tyranny of the ego. Freedom from blood ties, from the tribe, the clan, the caste and religion. Freedom from restrictive identities which kill our humanity and teach us to be selfish.
There are those who are unable to learn from the revolutions. They stick with their party, religion, clan, family, sheikh or hometown. They worship the individual, the father or the grandfather. They await a "savior president." Many have gotten used to black-market work. They have submitted to the authority of whatever leader comes next and await the Mahdi (savior). They fear clarity and honesty. They dodge, they lie, they betray the covenant. They go behind the backs of others, they believe in secret deals. For them, the ends justify the means. They follow a philosophy of weakness, fear, imprisonment and exile. They avoid the wrath of the security forces by collaborating with them. They play the game of submission. They bite the hand that feeds them. They seek compassion from the powerful. They strike at the weak among their colleagues: mothers, wives, sons and daughters. We saw them in all the revolutions, movements and marches. They dodge and they turn. They strike at those who trusted them.
The criteria for selecting members of the constitution committee must include people from all classes. Women are half the population, and young people are more than that. Will the women and youth be properly represented? Thirty-six percent of women are the heads of families. They work both outside and inside the home. They carry the stone on their backs. But national statistics still count them as unemployed. Most housewives who have no maids work 20 hours a day within the home — more than any man, farmer or active employee.
A women's voice is essential in developing a just and equitable constitution. Without the participation of women, there can be no justice, freedom, dignity or democracy in any society.
The women's movement fought for and defended the rights of women for centuries. The gains made by women and children through the recent passage of laws cannot be linked to the work of Jehan Sadat, Suzanne Mubarak, or Queen Nazli (the wife of Egypt’s King Faruq). They are rather the basic human rights of women and children, no one of conscience can rob them of that. But rights without power are lost rights, and power without rights is tyranny, even if those in power cite religion and higher principles as justification for their actions. We are living in a jungle and not in a humanitarian, advanced society. The strong take advantage of the weak. The big eat the small. It is the caste system of patriarchy that is ruling the world. There is no way to change it except through collective organization by women, men and children too. Did you not hear the shouts of the children in the streets saying, "Down with injustice?"
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