MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story.
BUTHAYNA KAMEL: (Arabic language spoken)
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, Host:
But today, Kamel and other Egyptians are looking forward to what they hope will be a real presidential race with grassroots campaigns.
KAMEL: (Arabic language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: Martina Rieker is an associate dean at American University in Cairo, who heads the Institute for Gender and Women's Studies.
MARTINA RIEKER: You've had relatively powerful women's national councils. You've had relatively vibrant NGO development scene with an awful lot of women's representation. And so the question really becomes: What has that meant for questions of social and economic justice, in particular, and who are actually these actors?
SARHADDI NELSON: Nawal El Saadawi has similar concerns. She is one of Egypt's best-known feminists. The 80-year-old author and psychiatrist adds that Egypt's current military rulers were part of Mubarak's regime.
NAWAL EL SAADAWI: When the revolution succeeded and we came back home, we opened newspaper, we find women excluded by the military and by the new temporary government. They appointed the people in charge of the provinces, the muhafezeen - not a single woman. There was not a single woman in the committee for changing the constitution. Every day we found women are not there.
SARHADDI NELSON: But Saadawi says the solution isn't necessarily fielding female candidates in the upcoming elections. Instead, she wants women's groups to unite and do exactly what the youth did in the uprising that toppled Mubarak.
EL SAADAWI: Women should be in the street in millions. If women are millions or just one million and make a march with all their demands, this is the pressure.
SARHADDI NELSON: Activist Mozn Hassan says also key is defining the women's rights agenda in Egyptian terms. She says she learned that on March 8th, when she took part in the International Women's Day march that came under attack.
MOZN HASSAN: No one is excusing sexual harassment. But at the same time, at this day, people were protesting for sectarian rights and students were striking in the universities asking for their rights. And some of the people thought that it was more important for the society and for the political movement to see women with them.
SARHADDI NELSON: Hassan heads a NGO called Nazra for Feminist Studies, which is helping more than a dozen young women who are known in their communities to run for office later this year. She says even if they win, it won't break Egypt's formidable gender barriers. But she hopes to lay a foundation for a strong women's rights movement that can have a say in the new Egypt.
HASSAN: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.
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