Bothaina Kamel, an Egyptian television anchor and activist, has the distinction of being the first woman to run for the president of Egypt. Her motto, “My agenda is Egypt,” and her activist background shows that she certainly has the credentials to run as an advocate for the people in the historic September elections.
According to Abdalla F. Hassan of the New York Times, Kamel is known as “the woman who is like a hundred men” for her active role in pro-democracy rallies over the years. She acted as a human shield for youth demonstrators and her presidential campaign focuses on “fighting the dual evils of poverty and corruption.”
She has been a strong advocate for youth, and agitated to reduce the minimum age for serving in the country’s legislature in an attempt to get younger voices into the Egyptian government.
Kamel has also been an active participant in the movement to end the sectarian violence that has caused several violent outbursts between Muslims and Coptic Christians over the past few months.
“Coptic means Egyptian. We are all one,” she said. “I am wearing the crescent and the cross.” She was referring to the fact that although she is Muslim, she wears a cross necklace in addition to her crescent, to show religious solidarity with Egypt’s Christian minority.
Some expressed skepticism about whether Kamel has a chance to win this election. “Usually in countries where there is no history of women’s participation to a significant level, those who come through to the rarefied senior roles tend to come through family connections,” said Nan Sloane, director of the Centre for Women and Democracy, in an article for the Guardian. “[But] anything is possible, particularly in a volatile situation. I would never say never.”
The Guardian piece, however, pointed out that many feminists say they won’t vote at all until Egypt’s constitution allows for more political gender equity. So while Kamel’s campaign has great symbolic value, it seems like more will have to change in Egypt before a woman can be elected president.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.