The past few days I have been whittling through Qassim Amin‘s The Liberation of Women (al-Tahrir al-Mar’a), published in 1899, for an article on early Arab feminist movements.
A pioneering work of feminist writing, Amin kick-started the call for the emancipation of Egyptian women and questioned the unquestionable in the process.
Refuting polygamy, condemning the seclusion of women, triumphing a woman’s right to further education, and analysing the role of the veil in Islam, Amin was ahead of his time and inspired a generation of women who would proceed to establish significant movements, such as Huda Sha’rawi, and the Egyptian Feminist Union, الاتحاد النسائي المصري, in 1923.
As I sent the article to my editor last night, Amin’s calls for equality continued to resonate in my mind, and I wondered whether true equality has been achieved for the women of Egypt since they were first granted the vote in 1956.
My question was answered this morning by the following post about a innovative website that unites women in the debate concerning the injustices prevalent in contemporary Egyptian society, and the implications this bears for women.
Established in September 2006, We Are All Laila is the brainchild of a group of Egyptian bloggers, and is inspired by Laila, the heroine of Latifa Al Zayat‘s novel, Al Bab al-Maftuh, or, The Open Door, published in 2002.
According to Lasto Adri, Laila provides a rallying point:
The idea behind ‘We are all Laila‘ started with with Laila, a woman who was confiding her concerns to another Laila. Soon the two Lailas became three, then five and then more than 50 women, who discovered that despite the differences in their circumstances, ideas and priorities, they were all Laila at the end of the day. Laila is your contemporary Egyptian girl, who faces different circumstances in a society which elevates the station of men and overlooks women. No one cared for her dreams and ideas and what she wanted to achieve in her life. Despite all this, Laila, who was subjected to discrimination from her childhood, was able to maintain her belief in herself, and her role as a women equal in importance to men – whether at home, in the work place, at school or in society at large.
The blog’s objective is a worthy and, to date, a successful one:
Our aim is to give Laila the opportunity to speak up and hear about others speaking about her, and for her to know that she is not alone in refusing and confronting the injustice she is being subjected to.
Our goal is to have a voice which expresses our suffering as we are fed up of having others speak on our behalf.
Our bigger goal is to share with you an essential aspect of our existence, a part which is carefully hidden inside your sister, wife and colleague at work .. and a part you are contributing to consciously or subconsciously sometimes.
With numerous contributors, We Are All Laila has excelled in utilising the blogosphere as a means of vocalisation, unity, and support for those who suffer the injustices that still prevail.
Little over 100 years since Amin first penned his assault on the subjugation of women, the Egyptian feminist movement has swapped its quills for keyboards, and is still going strong.