the revolutionary women of
Honouring the struggles of women all over the world against patriarchy and oppression on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, Horace Campbell focuses on the instrumental role of key women activists in the Egyptian protests.
WHEN the revolutionary
In particular, it
is important to salute women such as Amal Sharaf and Asmaa Mahfouz of
the April 6 Youth Movement of Egypt, who showed exemplary leadership
in challenging the much-dreaded Mubarak regime. These women are part
of a new generation of revolutionaries who are fighting to shift the
power in society from patriarchs and capitalists to working women and
men. African peoples throughout the world have embraced the celebration
of International Women's Day, even though at the inception of this celebration,
people of African descent were discriminated against in the mainstream
women's movement. We salute those women from
Mobilising the masses
Asmaa Mahfouz is a
young revolutionary who was one of the founders of the April 6 Youth
Movement. This movement was formed by young Egyptian revolutionaries,
including Ahmed Maher and Amal Sharaf, in 2008 to support the workers
in the industrial city of
Esam al-Amin, in his brilliant analysis of the implications of the Egyptian revolution, wrote that, '[a]s the demonstrations continued, every day broke new ground. It started with the educated youth, both middle class and affluent. They were soon joined by the oppressed and uneducated poor. Within a few days, the protests swelled to include all segments of society, including judges, lawyers, doctors, engineers, journalists, artists, civil servants, workers, farmers, day labourers, students, home makers, the underclass and the unemployed.'
When I was recently
It is now internationally recognised that Asmaa Mahfouz played a crucial role not only within the April 6 Youth Movement but also by her own initiative to post the historic 18 January YouTube video calling on Egyptians to come out to Tahrir Square on 25 January. In her outline of the 12 decisive moments that played a crucial role in maintaining the momentum of the revolution, Asmaa's steadfastness, courage and initiative exposed to the world the new politics that is awaiting the world in this revolutionary moment.
Before recording the
inspiring video, Asmaa had gone to
'I posted that I,
a girl, am going down to
Asmaa was challenging
the Egyptian people to demand their honour and human dignity from a
corrupt and brutal government that had ruled the country with an iron
fist under emergency laws for over three decades. She implored her compatriots
to head to
'I am making this
video to give you one simple message. We want to go down to
'I am going down on January 25th, and from now till then, I am going to distribute fliers in the street every day. I will not set myself on fire! If the security forces want to set me on fire let them come and do it. If you think yourself a man, come with me on January 25th.'
It is now history
that the call of this young woman propelled a revolutionary moment that
brought down the regime in
'Whoever says women shouldn't go to protests because they will get beaten, let him have some honour and manhood and come with me on January 25th. Sitting at home and just following us on news or Facebook leads to our humiliation, leads to my own humiliation.
'If you have honour and dignity as a man, come! Come and protect me and other girls in the protest. If you stay at home, then you deserve all that's being done to you. And you will be guilty before your nation and your people. And you will be responsible for what happens to us on the street while you sit at home. Go down on the street, send SMS, post it on the Net, make people aware.
'Never say there's no hope! Hope disappears only when you say there's no hope. So long as you come down with us, there will be hope. Don't be afraid of the government, fear none but God!
'Don't think you can be safe anymore! None of us are! Come down with us and demand your rights, my rights, your family's rights.
'I am going down on January 25th, and I will say "No" to corruption. "No" to this regime.'
Asmaa was not only instrumental in sparking the Egyptian revolution, she and other women played critical roles in the decisive moments that guaranteed the victory of the people. They paid a heavy sacrifice, bearing the brunt of at least 10% of the casualties in the first week. The women gave their time, their passion and their inspiration for the revolution.
Amal Sharaf was another
one of the key organisers of the
Patriarchy has historically
oppressed women so that women's roles in past revolutions and societal
transformation were relegated to the footnotes of history. Just as in
this revolution in
Only one day in a year is dedicated to the celebration of women's achievements globally. However, the commemoration of International Women's Day at this moment offers us an opportunity to reflect on and support the efforts of women around the world to liberate themselves and to oppose a capitalist system that passes the heaviest burden of care onto women. When Asmaa chastised the critics of women protesters to 'have some honour and manhood', it was a statement that seeks to redefine the honour of manhood in relation to standing up to the masculinists in society who support the dehumanisation and exploitation of women. This is a major statement about human rights and the transformation of gender relations in the 21st century.
As I was writing this
piece, news came through of the killing of unarmed women in
Throughout the pan-African
world, the struggles for reproductive rights along with the struggles
for basic integrity as human beings have once again propelled women
to the front of the African liberation struggles. On this International
Women's Day, I want to salute the revolutionary women all over
Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. Professor Campbell's website is www.horacecampbell.net. This article first appeared in Pambazuka News (Issue 520, 10 March 2011, www.pambazuka.org, English edition ISSN 1753-6839).
*Third World Resurgence No. 247, March 2011, pp 42-44