It no longer raises eyebrows to see women working as carpenters, plumbers, electricians or car mechanics. Not only that, but social media has also widened women's horizons and helped them realise that nothing is unachievable.

Social media and tutorial videos on YouTube helped women across the country, especially in conservative communities that limit their mobility and often hindered their dreams, to start small home businesses. With a click of a button, women across the country learn crafts online and market their products on social media, generating income for themselves and their families. Home businesses like catering, baking, jewellery-making and handmade gifts are among the top businesses created by women, which brings them economic independence.

Realising the power of women

However, nothing would have worked without a strong support system that believed in women rights and equality and one that became the driving force to bring change to them. Realising the power of women, the current administration has been working from day one to empower women on the social, economic and political level. The efforts by the Egyptian government since 2013 cannot be overlooked or overshadowed as it has been a while since Egypt had a government that is fully embracing women, on all sectors and levels.

The road to achieving overall development is long and challenging, with hurdles at every corner. The damage that was done over decades cannot be overturned overnight, but very slow steps are being taken, and every positive change is a change in the right direction. With the global and local attention on women and their issues, we are witnessing the birth of new initiatives every day that try to bring positive changes and help women realise their power and strength. The Women of Egypt (WoE) Initiative is such an example.

Founded in January 2016, WoE's main mission is to empower Egyptian women by bringing into focus important issues hindering their growth, shedding light on the problems of gender inequality and by effecting positive social, cultural and professional change. Through its social media platforms and online publications, WoE offers Egyptian women an online support platform where they can be inspired, encouraged and empowered. It also monitors the news, exposes violations against women or their issues and updates them with laws issued in, or against, their favour. Moreover, it offers them a safe medium to voice their concerns and express their thoughts and motivate them to stand up for their rights and demand change.

Leading women's movements in misogynistic and patriarchal societies is challenging. To maintain the status quo and their superiority over women, which they inherited from their predecessors, men would fight tooth and nail not to surrender any of the rights they are unjustly basking in.

The road to gender equality is long and bumpy. Advocacy to bring positive change to women's lives is challenging, but in the long run, it works as people are eager to change for the better if guided in the right direction. And big changes are the culmination of small continuous and persistent efforts, even if it means improving the life of one woman at a time. Advocates are a force for change, and people fear change, even those who will benefit from it. Changing mindsets is hard, but hard work and persistence are powerful tools for the betterment of humanity when used wisely to improve the lives of others.

Alexandra Kinias

© Goethe-Institut 2020

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