Women’s Vote Certain, but What About Their Issues?

A hair salon turned into a pro-rally for Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when hairdresser Amany was asked by Aswat Masriya on her stance regarding the elections. She replied by chanting “I love you, Sisi… I love you, Sisi.”

Most female patrons hurried to participate in the sudden support rave that erupted at the venue. “Yes, we’ll vote for Sisi. Who else works besides him?” asked one of the clients.

Amany, the salon owner, then returned to lead the group, adding “we want a g president that can save Egypt and save us as well.”

Most of those present at the downtown Cairo salon belong to the middle class, ages varying from 40-50, with the exception of one 20-year-old woman.

They speak of hopes for raises in pensions, finding employment opportunities for their sons, the return of security, and they raise these hopes on Sisi assuming power, considering him to have all the abilities to achieve them.

Nagwa, 43, didn’t consider that Sisi had supernatural powers, though she clarified that she supported him for the current lack of another qualified candidate for the post but him.

As a divorcee, she hoped to achieve a better position and a pension that would allow her comfortable living, compared to her father’s current pension of EGP 360.

Women are estimated to amount for 24 million votes according to the estimations of Egypt’s National Council for Women.

The Supreme Electoral Commission’s results also clarified that women constituted 55 percent of participants in the January 2014 constitutional referendum, compared to 45 percent which were men.

The commission considered the discrepancy unprecedented in Egypt’s history of elections and polls, especially as the figures of eligible voters showed almost equivalent percentages between males and females.

Sisi also seems to be keen on allocating parts of his addresses towards women. For example, prior to the constitutional referendum that took place earlier this year, he called upon women to go and cast their votes and to spur their families to participation.

Furthermore, in his first televised interview as a presidential candidate earlier this month, as he talked about the need to conserve consumption as a solution to the crises facing Egypt, Sisi was keen on addressing women as the effective element that was capable of catalyzing families to conserve.

Sisi’s popularity among many women was manifested in different forms during the past months. Some women carried his portraits in their weddings as others designed ornaments or even confectionery bearing his image.

However, this popularity doesn’t seem related to Sisi’s stance towards women’s issues. For instance, at the hair salon, women spoke of their support for Sisi regarding him as the best option for the country in a general sense, not in support for women specifically.

This showed when 27-year-old Rania, an accountant for a travel agency, started addressing the elder women with aice to read either candidates’ electoral platforms then making a decision.

She was met with uproar from Amany the hairdresser, who yelled at her “what platforms [are you talking about] when the country is sinking?” She added that the presidency required a candidate of a military background that was characterized by force and discipline.

Sisi also has support among feminist activists, such as Nur al-Huda Zaki, who together with her colleagues formed the “[Female] Egyptians Pro-Change” movement, during the tenure of former president Hosni Mubarak.

However, Zaki’s reasons for supporting Sisi are also related towards what she deems as the general interest of the country, not women specifically, as she sees him as the “more powerful candidate and more capable of leadership” in the current phase.

Nevertheless, there are also critics of Sisi among feminists. Wafaa al-Masri, lawyer and feminist activist, says Sisi has clear bias and expresses her concerns regarding his inability to handle women’s issues in a competent manner.

Al-Masri chose to support the other candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, whom she considers to have a belief in the need for a g and independent feminist formation, untied by any policies

In addition, his platform states to achieve better representation of women in state institutions, and promises to eradicate illiteracy among three million women, and to merge two million of them in small enterprises during the first four years of his term, she said.

Source : Aswat Masriya