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“The Arab Spring” is a term that has been used extensively in the media in recent years. That it would only take one spring season to democratise Egypt and secure the rights of women is of course unrealistic, it takes more than that.
“There is a long and laborious work ahead of us if we are to see an improvement in women’s rights,” says one of the many women we met in Cairo last week.

Operation 1325 is visiting Egypt to plan a future meeting in Alexandria in late April. The meeting will bring together women from seven different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The theme of the meeting will be to share their experiences and to develop tools for advocacy in women’s participation on the basis of Resolution 1325. The meeting is organised in cooperation with Norwegian Church Aid and partners in the region.

The representation of women in the Egyptian Parliament is low, only about 2%. But just getting women into parliament is not enough, those who are there need support and help to change the situation for women in the country. One organisation that Operation 1325 met is working through one of its projects to support women who have been elected to various political positions through a mentoring program. The program provides strategies and tools to enhance and improve these women’s influence on politics.

The organizations in that Operation 1325 will invite to the meeting in April represent a broad spectrum of civil society. They run projects that involve everything from getting more women to involve in politics to refurbishing and replanting roof terraces in Cairo to offer venues for women who would otherwise remain very insulated.

Since the Egyptian government restricted opportunities for international funding, the situation has been difficult for many organisations. Some organisations are also running projects that are not allowed by the state, especially projects focused on sexuality. Despite this difficult and uncertain situation, both in terms of funding and politics, there is a hope and a belief that it will get better. Something has happened to the Egyptian society after the revolution: there is a hope that has been lit and there is a belief that ordinary people can transform even seemingly unshakable regimes.
“No one should think that it will be easy, but we must believe that it is possible,” says one of all the inspiring women we’ve met on this trip.

Karin Axelsson Zaar
Secretary General, Operation 1325