Egypt has ranked 136 out of 145 countries in gender equality to achieve the unenviable position of being among the 10 worst countries for gender equality in the world, according to theWorld Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2015
On the top of the list sit Iceland, Norway and Finland, coming in first, second and third, respectively, while Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are the best in gender equality in the Middle East region.
The report also pointed out that the MENA region is the home to the “lowest-ranked country” in the list, Yemen, which ranked the worst this year and has remained at the bottom of the index since 2006. However, the country has significantly improved its status, relative to its own past scores.
The report’s results are based on four main pillars: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. These indicators help to determine how equally the country’s resources are distributed among genders.
With regards to Egypt, the report showed a large gap between men and women in most indicators. Women constitute only 26 percent of the labor force, with an estimated annual income of US$5,218, compared to 79 percent of men with an estimated $17,353.
Egyptian men are also more educated than women, with 82 percent of men being literate, compared to 65 percent of women. In the political sphere, women clearly lagged behind in participation, with no female heading the state in the last 50 years and 12 percent of women occupying ministerial positions, compared to 88 percent of men.
“The gap between men and women in health, education, economic opportunity and political representation has closed by 4 percent in the past 10 years. In economic terms, the gap has closed by only 3 percent with progress towards wage equality and labor force parity stalling markedly since 2009/2010,” the report said about countries globally.
The report anticipated that it would take the world another 118 years (until 2133) to completely close the economic gap, demonstrating that the slow progress in narrowing this gap between both genders means that women are now earning the same amount of money as men did in 2006, when the Global Gender Gap was first produced.
According to the report, Nordic nations remain the most gender-equal societies in the world.
This article was originally published in the Egypt Independent
One tragedy of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2015 findings is that Egypt was the home of one of the Arab world’s best known feminists who, more than a century ago had already planted the seeds of change which, by 2015, should have flourished to put Egypt on a par with some of the world’s most highly developed and prosperous societies.
Huda Shaarawi (1879–1947) (below) was an Egyptian feminist who influenced not only women in Egypt but throughout the Arab world. She was a pioneer in feminism, and brought to light the restrictive world of upper-class women in her book The Harem Years.
Shaarawi was raised in the harem system, which kept women secluded and veiled. All women, rich or poor, went outside veiled, except peasant women in the countryside. Veiling and the harem system were cultural traditions, followed by Jewish and Christian women as well as Muslim.
Huda was very well educated from a young age. She was tutored in a variety of subjects and spoke French, Turkish, and Arabic. At the age of 13, she was married to her cousin Ali Pasha Shaarawi. In their marriage contract, he promised to leave his slave-concubine, but she bore him a child a year after their marriage. Huda separated from him and they remained apart for the next 7 years. During this time she was able to be independent, since her father had died when she was young. She extended her education and became involved in activism. As she grew older, her husband, a political activist himself, included her in his political meetings, and often sought her counsel.
Huda had a hand in many “firsts” for women in Egyptian society. In 1908, she founded the first philanthropic society run by Egyptian women, where they offered services for poor women and children. She believed that having women run such projects would challenge the view that women are created for men’s pleasure and in need of protection. In 1910, she opened a school for girls focused on academics, rather than teaching practical skills like midwifery which was common at the time.
Around the world, social reform movements, including women’s suffrage, were gaining ground, and the women of Egypt were not immune. The country was modernising, expanding educational opportunities for women. She organized lectures for women on various topics, bringing them out of their homes and into public places. After the World War I, many women left the harem to take action against British rule in Egypt, and Huda Shaarawi stood up to organize them. In 1919, she helped to organize the largest women’s anti-British demonstration.
In 1923, Huda Shaarawi founded the Egyptian Feminist Union, which is still active as a non-profit today. They focused on various issues, including women’s suffrage and education. Huda was also passionately against restrictions on women’s dress and freedom of movement, which was a central part of harem life. Shaarawi continued to lead the Egyptian Feminist Union until her death, demonstrating and organizing the fight for women’s rights in the new Egypt. She represented Egypt at women’s conferences around the world, advocating for peace and disarmament. She was also a member (and in 1935, vice-president) of the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship, and founding president of the Arab Feminist Union in 1945. With her unique blend of western-style feminism with her own country’s customs, culture, and Egyptian nationalism, Huda Shaarawi influenced millions of Arab women and people all around the world.