About a thousand women turned out to march on International Women’s Day Tuesday in Cairo to demand “fair and equal opportunity for all Egyptian citizens — beyond gender, religion or class.”
The activists in Egypt, who had called for a “Million Woman March,” were disappointed when some men chanting anti-feminist slogans caused the rally to degenerate into a shouting match.
“Men are men and women are women and that will never change and go home, that’s where you belong,” was one of the chants heard at the march.
“As the women stood there and they chanted, suddenly this group of young men started chanting things, that women should go home, that they should stay in the home and the proof of that is that God didn’t make any female prophets,” NBC’s Anne Thompson reported from Cairo Tuesday.
In a Facebook post, organizers of the March said they were not after minority rights.
“We are not after symbolic political representation,” they said.
“The bodies of women, so often used as ideological battlegrounds, have withstood all kinds of police violence, from tear gas to live bullets. The real battleground did not differentiate between women and men.”
Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s revolution, was chosen for the march because the women demand to be part of the new Egyptian government. Only one woman was included when Egypt’s new cabinet was sworn in Monday.
“When the prime minister came to Tahrir to speak to the people, was he blind?” Nehad Abu El Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, asked upon hearing the news. “Did he not see that half of the people filling the square were women?”
“If we’re not involved in building the constitutional and legislative future of this country now, then when? Why do we see women, who were almost 50 percent of the protesters in Tahrir, not represented in decision-making rooms?”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared Tuesday that women must get a role in the new government.
“The United States will stand firmly for the proposition that women must be included in whatever process goes forward,” she said.
“They have now insisted that their voices be heard,” Clinton added. “And in the coming months and years, the women in Egypt and Tunisia and other nations have just as much right as the men to remake their governments — to make them responsive, accountable, transparent.”
Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day.
This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast March 7, 2011.
This video is from CNN, broadcast March 8, 2011.