Egyptian Feminist Union

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The Egyptian Feminist Union (Arabic: الاتحاد النسائي المصري) was the first nationwide feminist movement in Egypt.

History and profile[edit]

The Egyptian Feminist Union was founded at a meeting on 6 March 1923[1][2] at the home of activist Huda Sha'arawi,[3] who served as its first president until her death on December 12, 1947. Before becoming the EFU, the organization which had ties to the Wafd Party was called the Wafdist Women's Central Committee in 1920.[4] The creation of the Egyptian Feminist Union came in response to feminist dissatisfaction with the Egyptian independence movement, which placed women's rights as secondary in the struggle for independence.[citation needed]

Its mission was to gain comprehensive rights for women. Some of the demands of the EFU were but are not limited to: women’s suffrage, the advancement of women and children’s education, stopping government legalized prostitution, reforming the Personal Status law, as well as better healthcare for women and children.[5] These demands were chronicled and published in their fortnightly periodical L'Egyptienne from 1925, and from 1937 the journal el-Masreyyah (The Egyptian Woman).[5] They would eventually become successful in the struggle for women’s suffrage, with Egypt granting the right to vote to women in 1956, as well as ending legalized prostitution.[5] Demands for education reforms by the union were met in 1925 when the government made primary education compulsory for girls as well as boys, and later in the decade women were admitted to the national university for the first time.

The union's campaign for the reform of family law, however, was unsuccessful.[6] The EFU was not able to reform parts of the family law and Personal Status Codes that allowed males to divorce their spouses without the spouses' consent, as well as ending polygamy.[5] In February 1951, Doria Shafik managed to secretly bring together 1500 women from Egypt's two leading feminist groupings (the union and Bint Al-Nil). She organized a march that interrupted parliament for four hours after they gathered there with a series of demands mainly related to women's socioeconomic rights. Mufidah Abdul Rahman was chosen to defend Shafik in court in regards to this.[7][8] When the case went to trial, many Bint al-Nil supporters attended the courtroom, and the judge adjourned the hearing indefinitely.[9] However, in spite of receiving promises from the President of the Senate, women's rights experienced no improvements.[8]

The union was affiliated to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. In 1923 the International Woman Suffrage Alliance held a meeting in the capital of Italy which the EFU sent delegates to attend.[4]

The union also supported complete independence from the United Kingdom, but like upper-class male leaders of the Wafd Party, promoted European social values and had an essentially secular orientation.

The union organised the Eastern Women’s Conference for the Defense of Palestine in Cairo, and Huda Sharawi suggested the individual countries establish feminist unions, and that those unions form an umbrella organization, spanning the Arab world.[10] In December 1944, the EFU convened the Arab Feminist Congress or Arab Women's Congress in Cairo, which formally established the Arab Feminist Union (AFU).[10]

EFU Under Nasser[edit]

Under the first years of Gamal Abdel Nasser Presidency the EFU had their demands met by being granted the right to vote (1956).[11] Nasser also created equal opportunity for women in education and employment, while promising middle and lower class citizens the right to education, healthcare, and economic mobility for both men and women.[11] The Egyptian Feminist Union became restricted under the government controlled by President Gamal Abdel Nasser during and after 1956. The Nasser regime would go on to dissolve The EFU in 1956 and absorb the organization, going from an independent organization to a government run charity[11] renamed the Huda Sha'arawi Association.[12] The Nasser regime passed the law 32/1964 which gave the government the ability to regulate organizations that were not already associated under the government.[11] This made it difficult for the organization to demand political and economic rights. The union reformed as a non-profit, non-governmental organization under the original name but with a different goal and team in 2011.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mariz Tadros (March 18–24, 1999). "Unity in diversity". Al Ahram Weekly (421). Archived from the original on May 30, 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  2. ^ Earl L. Sullivan (January 1, 1986). Women in Egyptian Public Life. Syracuse University Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-8156-2354-0. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  3. ^ Nadje S. Al Ali. "Women's Movements in the Middle East: Case Studies of Egypt and Turkey" (Report). SOAS. Retrieved September 21, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Booth, Marilyn (2004). Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa 2nd Edition (vol. 2). USA: Gale. p. 770.
  5. ^ a b c d Badran, Margot (2007). Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender (Vol 2). Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA. p. 451.
  6. ^ p. 184 Modern Middle East. William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton. WestView Press 2013
  7. ^ Cynthia Nelson (1996). Doria Shafik Egyptian Feminist : A Woman apart. American Univ in Cairo Press. pp. 169–176–. ISBN 978-977-424-413-1.
  8. ^ a b "Overlooked No More: Doria Shafik, Who Led Egypt's Women's Liberation Movement". Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  9. ^ Anne Commire; Deborah Klezmer (2002). Women in World History: Schu-Sui. Yorkin Publications. ISBN 978-0-7876-4073-6.
  10. ^ a b Weber, C. (2001). Unveiling Scheherazade: Feminist Orientalism in the International Alliance of Women, 1911-1950. Feminist Studies, 27(1), 125-157. doi:10.2307/3178453
  11. ^ a b c d Sika, Nadine; Khodary, Yasmin (October 2012). "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? Egyptian Women within the Confines of Authoritarianism". Journal of International Women's Studies. 13: 91–100.
  12. ^ Margot, Badran (2007). Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender (Vol 2). Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA. p. 451.
  13. ^ Eriksen, Mette (October 18, 2011). "Women's groups relaunch Egyptian Feminist Union". Egypt Independent.
  14. ^ Goldschmidt, Arthur (2000). Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt. Boulder [u.a.]: Rienner. p. 190. ISBN 978-1-55587-229-8. Egyptian Feminist Union.

External links[edit]