UN: Bachelet Addresses Challenges, Provides Recommendations for Pathway to Democracy in Egypt

Publication Date: 
March 25, 2011
UN Women
Bachelet at roundtable with Cairo activists and civil society on women’s role in carving a democratic transition

Cairo — During a high-level UN delegation led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Egypt 19-21 March, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet engaged with women activists, youth leaders and civil society at interactive roundtables to discuss the challenges ahead in light of the country’s recent political uprising as well as the practical and strategic role women must play to set the path for democracy and gender equality in Egypt.

“I truly believe in the capacity of Egyptian women to change their society,” Ms. Bachelet said during the roundtable Women in Democratic Transition: The Pathway to Democracy. The same day, she met with youth activists at another roundtable to discuss how UN Women can support youth during the transition.

In her address to women leaders and civil society, Ms. Bachelet stressed that institutional as well as socioeconomic changes are needed hand-in-hand in order to ensure a democratic system. She further added that women’s representation is needed at the political levels for social justice and that strategic as well as practical thinking is required over theory to tackle on-the-ground issues, such as poverty and unemployment, in order to empower women.

“We will continue supporting women’s organizations, but they have to work on identifying women’s rights champions that are men,” Ms. Bachelet said.

“I am very optimistic change will happen,” said Abdo Abu El Ella from the El Shehab Foundation during the youth roundtable. Like many at the event, she also discussed the need for a social movement and a bottom-up approach.

Other activists addressed some of the challenges ahead, including overcoming longstanding patriarchal perceptions of women, and pointed to their own personal experiences with gender inequality.

“We want to go beyond women’s issues, these are societal issues,” said Anissa Hassouna, Executive Director of Magdi Yacoub Foundation.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Bachelet reflected on her own political experience in providing words of advice and encouragement.

“The only way to not lose the power and not to break because of disappointment is to stick together and set goals,” Ms. Bachelet said. “Win small battles — a sign that you’re still moving to win a big battle.”