Bothaina Kamel, Egypt's First Female Presidential Candidate Speaks

Bothaina Kamel speaking during FEMNET's Third Regional Conference for African Women in Political Leadership

Dear Sisters,
Thank you very much for your kind invitation, I have the great honor. Being an African woman myself, I am so happy to be with you today in such a beautiful African country.
The concept of a network that allows people from different countries, cultures and origins to meet, share their concerns, work together against any kind of discrimination is such a noble idea.
It is always very useful and effective to share, think  and work together to grant a better future for our societies.
Discrimination is such an evil human practice that took different forms and shapes through the history of humankind all over the world. I believe that the most important target of our meeting here is to understand the mutual problems that women suffer from in Africa. More importantly, it is to address the different forms of discrimination against women that vary from one country to another due to the differences in culture, social nature and religion.
I come from Egypt, a great country that inspired the whole world with the revolution that removed our old regime, a revolution that unified all Egyptians, men and women, Muslims and Christians, poor and rich. I am proud of being an Arab Muslim woman that holds dear all the Muslim and Christian traditions and principles.
Yet, within the last few decades, Islam in Egypt has taken a new and wrongful form. In older times, the role of women was very effective and appreciated until a new wave of religious approach took place discriminating against Christians as well as suggesting more restrictions over Egyptian women; the way they dress, the way they think and act as well as against their very personal freedoms which coincide with human rights.
We can see now those women are receiving dictations by a new authority, the authority of men backed by a wrongful interpretation of our great religion. Dictations over freedom of speech, the right to assume public posts, and even the way women must dress and the way they appear in the society.
For the last two years, there has been a great struggle in Egypt concerning the right of women to  work in judicial posts, a great and strange ban that was never there before against women has taken place although it goes against the laws and constitution of Egypt.
We underwent a great struggle to face such discrimination that the Egyptian government had to appoint a few women to the Egyptian judiciary, but only on an exceptional basis. The struggle is ongoing as we speak.
For that reason, among many others, I made the decision to take the step, accept the challenge and run for presidency in my country. My decision was far from throwing a rock in the water, a very serious and well-planned campaign was adopted. I visited a big number of Egyptian villages and cities and was received with warmth and welcome.
On the other hand, a great deal of criticism and even sarcasm has taken place against my bid for presidency, but I can really say that with the help of the people who work with me, we managed to change those negative impressions into a great deal of respect. Had work and sincere intentions always generate respect, that is always my principle.
I am so proud that I have the role of changing the perception of women in my country. I always declare that I am against all kinds of discrimination. I always refer to the discrimination that took place in Egypt against the religious forces in our societies in the last regime. I always pledge that those who suffered discrimination must be the last ones to practice it themselves.
Still, I believe poverty is the biggest challenge, the number one challenge that is facing our societies and Africa as a whole. Sadly, our countries are full of fortunes and resources, and still poverty is our biggest problem. Needless to say that women are the part of society that suffer the most from poverty. The scene in Somalia nowadays is breaking all our hearts as we watch helpless women who are, by nature, taking charge of our sons and daughters, our new generations, are helplessly trying to save the very lives of their own babies. It is such a repeated scene that always goes without solution; we all must take up our roles to solve this problem, once and for all. Hunger doesn’t discriminate, but that is a huge price paid mostly by women due to the struggle of men over power.
I think that our goal in this honorable gathering is to create a specific mechanism to know how to fight poverty.
A public role that can be effective, successful, and able to actually change the sad reality of our continent will send also a message to the whole world that women are able to act, do and share seriously with a huge part in changing our society for a better future.
Instead of speaking about ourselves, let’s make our good work speak for us!
Thank you,
Bothaina Kamel
Egyptian Presidential Candidate
August, 2011

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