As Michelle wrote in the comments on the previous post, our discussion last night turned up some surprising facts: Liza pointed out that over 90% of Egyptian women are "circumcised" (or rather, have experienced female genital mutilation)*. This seemed very strange to me, because I had the impression that there had been strong women's movements in Egypt, and I assumed that FGM would be the kind of thing that women's movements would oppose.
Having looked around a little, it turns out that Egypt does have a history of important activism by women, including opposition to FGM. Nadje S. Al-Ali's The Women's Movement in Egypt, with Selected References to Turkey and Nadia Wassef and Nemat Guenena's Unfulfilled Promises: Women's Rights in Egypt both give good overviews of women's activism and key issues.
It's also important to note that this history of women's activism has had some significant results. For example, women's representation in parliament is guaranteed throughthe provision of a minimum number of seats, and women have a significant presence in Egyptian higher education.
At first media coverage of the recent Egyptian protests included very few images of women (Opinioness of the World gives a good overview of this, with plenty of useful links, and a number of news sources have noted that women have been present in significant numbers at the protests (see, for example, Lindsey's article on PRI and Topol's article on Slate).
I'm curious to see what happens over the next few months in Egypt. After last night's discussion, I'll be paying special attention to whether women's concerns are addressed (or even raised) at any stage during the elections and negotiations.
* Nadia Wassef, an activist against FGM, discusses why she uses the term "female circumcision" rather than FGM in this article. It's worth a read.