On January 25, 2011, the Egyptian people decided to revolt, as part of the Arab Spring, in protest against socio-economic inequality and political corruption. Women were a significant part of the revolution. After President Mubarak stepped down from office, Egyptian women's dreams of political, financial, legal, and social equality were renewed.
In spite of this, the situation for women worsened in 2012 and 2013. Women activists voiced their objections against the new government’s lack of a vision for women, as Morsi’s government refused to confront women’s issues until addressing more “important topics” facing the Egyptian society at the time such as the enhancement of the economy.
Furthermore, a gender quota for women was not mentioned in the new Constitution of 2012. Due to the lack of a quota, women received the lowest levels of parliamentary representation during that time, making up no more than 2.6% of all parliamentarians. This Constitution was regarded as most restrictive in terms of women's rights because it did not include any guarantees of those rights outside of those related to protecting the families and children.
These factors led to the outbreak of the June 30, 2013 revolution against the ousted president Muhammed Morsi’s government and the Muslim brotherhood.
In 2014, President El-Sisi took office and committed to improving the status of women in all spheres of Egyptian society, even though Egypt was facing terrorist attaks and economic hardship at the time. This started with the establishment of the 2014 Constitution which included several articles guaranteeing gender equality. These articles supported women’s political participation as well as their economic, social, and political rights. However it was only in 2019 following a protracted campaign for gender equality of the political, economic, and social sectors in Egypt that the Egyptian parliament enacted a constitutional amendment containing a gender quota, therefore reserving 25% of parliamentary seats for women..
The government issued three strategies to enhance women equality and empowerment: The National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women 2015-2020, the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030 and the National Human Rights Strategy 2021-2026.
In 2018, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly formed his new government (Cabinet) which included the highest proportion of women in the Cabinet in the history of Egyptian political life; women held 25% of ministerial portfolios. Madbouly’s Council of Ministers was reshuffled twice in December 2019 and August 2022; women in the current cabinet hold 18% of ministerial portfolios.
The new members of parliament (MPs) took their oath of office on January 12, 2021, following the crucial 2020 election, marking the new year a historic one for women's representation. Women achieved their highest level of representation in Egypt, since gaining the right to vote and run for office in 1956.
Women gained 162 seats in the next legislative term (2021–2026), out of the 596 total seats. 142 MPs were elected on party lists, six on individual ballots, and 14 were appointed by the president. As a result of their electoral victories from this election cycle and presidential appointments, women now make up 28% of the Egyptian Parliament’s lower house and 14% of the Senate.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union monthly ranking for women representation in national parliaments in September 2022, Egypt ranks third among Arab states, trailing only the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, and ranks 76th overall.
On another level, the new government of President El-Sisi worked to enhance women’s participation in the judicial domain by appointing women to both the State Council and the Public Prosecution. Prior to this decision in March 2021, women were prohibited to work in these two entities. Up until then, women were appointed in three batches. In the state council, the first batch of 98 women judges was appointed in October 2021, the second batch of 38 women judges in June 2022, and the latest batch, appointed in the State Council, consists of 73 women judges.
Moreover, the current government is working to boost women’s social and economic situation by forming various initiatives such as Decent Life (Haya Karema) to improve living conditions for communities in need, eradication of illiteracy project in 2019 within the scope of the state's sustainable development strategy 2030, and establishing ten literacy classes for Bedouin women in the Matrouh governorate in 2021.
The road to gender equality in Egypt is still in its nascent phase and more work is needed to achieve this goal, but the country’s progress in women’s political, economical and social empowerment is so far admirable.
Fatma Tawfik is a research associate at RepresentWomen.