Accepted Paper:

Resistance, adaptation or co-option: The case of Egypt's women's rights organizations  


Sarah ElMasry (The American University in Cairo)
Ahmed Atif (The American University in Cairo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how some Egyptian women's rights organisations, movements and groups in rural and urban areas experienced the openness of the 2011 uprisings and the current state repression and how they are responding and adapting to it.

Paper long abstract:

Under the authoritarian regime of Hosny Mubarak (1981-2011), many of Egypt's women's rights organizations were co-opted under the leadership of Suzan Mubarak except for a few independent ones. Following the Egyptian uprisings of 2011 and the fall of Mubarak's regime, the Egyptian civil society witnessed an unprecedented level of openness and freedom to organize. As a result, there was a proliferation in the number of independent women's initiatives and organizations that opened all over the country adding to Egypt's 48,000 civil society organizations.

Six years after the uprisings, the openness dissipated and today's civil society faces, directly and indirectly, different forms of state repression; violent and non-violent. The response of women's rights movements and organizations in urban and rural areas was not uniform. These movements and organizations are not a homogenous group; some are radical organizations that resisted co-option and chose to challenge the state and its consecutive regimes, others are associated with the state and aligned with its interests and some are not concerned with agendas and focusing on women and girls in their local communities away from formal NGOization and politics.

Following an exploratory approach using case studies and semi-structured interviews with women's rights-based groups, movements and organizations in the cities of Cairo, Aswan, Assiut and Qina and the villages of Minya and Giza, the proposed paper explores how such movements and organizations are affected by the ever-shrinking space to organize and the ongoing state repression and how they are adapting and responding to it.

Panel P025
Changing spaces for rural and urban civil society movements in Africa