The 42% disgrace

8 Mar

This weekend’s New York Times contained two very interesting articles speaking to the current enormous changes rippling across the Middle East. The first, “Women Seek to Maintain a Role in the Building of a New Egypt” described both the influx in women taking to the streets in the January 25th Revolution, and the incredible obstacles confronting the majority of women in the country.

For instance: “…a recent report by the World Economic Forum ranked Egypt 125th out of 134 countries when judging the equality between men and women, in good part because so many women do not work, 42 percent of women cannot read or write and almost no women are political leaders.” The massive 42% illiteracy weighs in enormously as a factor in the political, artistic, progressive and occupational desires and goals that may serve as inspirational signposts. For example, if there are leaflets circulating concerning upcoming protests or community meetings, women under this 42% will not know of said events unless informed by someone else–i.e. their husbands. 2 out of 5 women cannot read or write.

This statistic overwhelms me, and does relate to the other article responsible for the instigation of this blog posting: Nicholas D. Kristof’s Sunday Op-Ed essay “Is Islam the Problem?” The impetus for Kristof’s piece is a reactive response to the recent enormous protests and movements topplingĀ  (or attempting to topple) the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and the Ivory Coast. “What took so long?”
Kristof considers various replies concerning Islam’s fundamental unsuitability to capitalism, the negative aftereffects of Western colonialism, and ancient Islamic legal codes. For Kristof, what must be stressed is not only that Islam is not the problem, but that it is also (counter to the Muslim Brotherhood’s declaration) not the solution.

The recently formed new Parliament in Egypt contains one woman; the committee formed by the military council post-Mubarak to draft constitutional amendments contained zero women; one of the amendments declares that any future presidents of Egypt cannot have a non-Egyptian wife. (Unless this amendment is including same-sex female marriages, it is apparent that its foundation rests on the notion that the president can only be male.)

So, let me surmise that one of the main structural problems that will continue to impair any economic, political, and cultural development in Egypt is the tragic 42%.


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