Mobilization and political motherhood: lessons from Egypt on the role of women in democracy
Photo Credit: LA Times

Mobilization and political motherhood: lessons from Egypt on the role of women in democracy

Democracies in sub-Saharan and North Africa have regressed in recent years. Ethnic and religious minorities, political opposition, women and the LGBT community still struggle for equal rights and the right not to experience violence. Activists throughout Africa, many of them women, are working hard to improve human rights on the continent. Some use traditional understandings of femininity and motherhood to advance their political aims.

In our research paper, The Use of Political Motherhood in Egypt's Arab Spring Uprising and Aftermath, we trace women's use of motherhood - women's identities as mothers - as a tool for political participation in civil society and government in Egypt.

Our research sheds light on how women activists have used this to increase the political participation of different sectors in society. One of the sectors we focused on is previously politically inactive women. These are individuals who have never paid attention to politics or engaged in collective action, who then become inspired by their identities as mothers to enter the public sphere.

We believe that researchers studying social movements have not given sufficient attention to political motherhood as a mobilisation force for democratisation. This is because it's usually associated with femininity and the private sphere while politics is typically viewed as a masculine domain. This can be traced back to thinking in Europe during the Enlightenment that connected women's position in the home to being civilised. This was transposed around the world via European colonisation, where it continues to limit women's political participation.

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