The appointment of three women in Prime Minister Sherif Ismail’s first Cabinet has attracted public attention in Egypt.
Egypt’s new Cabinet - headed by the former petroleum minister - was sworn in before Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi on Saturday, a week after the government resigned amid a corruption probe.
In a cabinet of 33, three of the appointees are women. Ghada Waly retained her position as minister of social solidarity. Nabila Makram was appointed as minister of immigration and Egyptian expatriate affairs and Sahar Nasr was named a minister of international cooperation.
Shortly after the swearing-in ceremony was over, some Egyptians took to social media to praise the three female ministers, saying it has been a long-time since Egypt had “pretty” and “chic” women ministers.
A Twitter hashtag which can be read in English as “Egypt is getting prettier” was created to commend their appointment.
It is worth mentioning that the number of women in the new Cabinet is not as high as many women rights’ supporters would want it to be.
Political Sociology Professor Saeed Sadek said social boundaries in Egypt remain an obstacle in the path of integrating more women in ministerial positions.
He said the female cabinet ministers were given the “three traditional portfolios for women”
In Egypt, women are not seen in the foreign, finance, interior or defense ministerial posts, Sadek said.
“The movement of women in public sector, in particular the political system, is not very strong,” he told Al Arabiya News.
Women make up the highest percentage of the voter turnout in Egypt. But this is not translated in their presence in decision-making positions, Sadek noted.
Focus on appearance
The outfits the new female minsters wore to the swearing-in ceremony also attracted the public’s attention.
Some Twitter users commended the fact that the three ministers were good-looking and not head-covered.
Others, including an Egyptian TV host, criticized Minister Nabila Makram for wearing short sleeves during the swearing-in ceremony, describing it as “inappropriate.”
Sadek said while he thinks the newly appointed ministers were remarkably elegantly-dressed, they reflect a “highly westernized” image that may cater to specific social class.
“The political elites in Egypt have always wanted highly-westernized women to be presented in western media and politics,” he claimed.
But political intuitions are conservative and cautious about allowing women into what are seen as male-dominated political posts, Sadek said.
“They also do not want to clash with the society,” he added, which may not be ready to welcome women in leading positions.
“Politicians do not want to lose popularity, so they choose to co-exist with backwardness.”
Meet the new Cabinet's women ministers
الدكتورة غادة والي
Ghada Waly retained her position as minister of social solidarity. She was named minister in March 2014. She holds a Master of Arts and Humanities from the University of Colorado in 1990.
She has more than 23 years of experience in integrated development management. She previously worked as a secretary-general of the Social Development Fund.
During her period in office, Waly launched a crackdown on several NGOs as part of the government’s plan to regulate their activities.
Nabila Makram was appointed as minister of immigration and Egyptian expatriate affairs. This body has been newly introduced in Ismail's cabinet.
Makram served as Egypt's consulate general in Rome and deputy consulate general in Dubai. She holds a Bachelor in economics and political science from Cairo University in 1991.
وزيرة التعاون الدولي
Sahar Nasr was named a minister of international cooperation. The post has been occupied by female ministers Naglaa Al-Ahwany and Fayza Aboul-Naga.
She worked as a leading financial economist in the Middle East and North Africa World Bank Finance and Private Sector Development Department. In addition to occupying several technical and managerial bank positions, she is also a member of the presidential advisory economic council.
Nasr received her Bachelor’s in economics from the American University in Cairo (AUC) in 1985. She attained her masters in economics in 1990 from AUC, and a PhD in economics from Cairo University in 2002.