Friday, December 17, 2010

The First Woman Minister in Egypt: We A Need A Revolution in Egypt .. A Social Revolution

Millions of Egyptians followed last Wednesday the first televised interview for the first woman minister in Egypt for the first time after her return from exile in 1991. Dr. Hekmat Abu Zaid , first women minister in EgyptThey listened and watched a very weak fragile 90 year old woman who still has got a very sharp mind to the level of knowing what Egypt suffers from while being ill in a hospital bed. It is shameful and unacceptable that a woman icon like her is being forgotten and only remembered when the first lady sent flowers to her in the hospital !! She is suffering from a bone fracture and she can’t have an operation currently because of anesthesia and old age. Her doctor said that she would return to her home soon in a wheelchair under the supervision of a caregiver .

You can watch the interview after the break

Misr El-Nahrda : An interview with the first woman minister in Egypt

Masr El-Nahrda’s Mahmoud Saad asked her what Egypt needed now and the first minister of social affairs told him with all confidence a revolution .. a social revolution with her fragile voice. Abu Zaid trashed the current greedy businessmen and she also criticized indirectly in such smart way the government for leaving people without proper housing projects. She does not like the last parliamentary elections asking Saad sarcastically if he liked it.

When Abu Zaid was asked where she wishes to be right now , she said without a hesitation to a library , to the national library. Abu Zaid is proud of her achievements in the ministry from 1963 to 1970 especially in the Egyptian country side , the productive families exhibits , the Egyptian rural pioneer women projects and the displacement of Nubia during the construction of the Aswan high dam. Minister Abu visiting the Nubia region

Hekmat Abu Zaid was the first woman minister appointed in Egypt and was the second woman minister in the Arab world “unlike what is claimed”.  I think she was the first woman minister in Africa if I am not mistaken. Hekmat Abu Zaid Mohamedein was born in Asuit , Upper Egypt in 1920. There is no doubt that the upbringing of Hekmat played a huge role in her life later. Her father was a stationmaster who defied all the odds and decided to educate his girls while her mother was a devoted housewife who used to fast with the Christians and participated in their feasts despite being a Muslim.

Not only Hekmat was lucky thanks to her father’s job to get education in other governorates because her village had no schools but she was lucky because her dad’s library was full of books shaping the young girl’s mind from early age. In 1935 she moved to Cairo to join a secondary boarding school in an extraordinary step at that time. She was expelled from that school and had to move in to another boarding school in Alexandria after heading an anti-British occupation protest , we are speaking her about a teenage girl. I look to her parents and I feel that they were really revolutionary considering the time and place , we are speaking about Upper Egyptian family. After finishing the secondary school , our girl from Upper Egypt was still defying all odds as she joined the faculty of Arts , Fouad I university “Cairo university” in 1940. Dr.Taha Hussein wanted to join the French section as she perfected French yet the stubborn girl insisted on choosing history to become a history teacher. She was teaching at her old Cairo secondary boarding school and among her students were famous legendary radio host Amal Fahmi , famous writer Naamat Ahmed Fouad and none other than Nawal El Saadawi.

In 1949 she got a diploma from the university of Edinburgh in education then Dr. Hekmat Abu Zaid visit the women faculty she founded with her collagues in Ain Shams University in 1963 after being appointed as the minister of social affairsreceived a master degree from Saint Andrew University in education  in 1950 then a PhD from the University of London in educational psychology in 1955. When she returned back home , she was appointed at Ain Shams University where she founded along with her colleagues the Women faculty there. Her political career I believe began to shape more and more starting with her activities during the Suez canal war. In 1961 she was chosen among university professors and prominent personalities in the country to study and discuss Gamal Abdel Nasser’s book “Al Methaq” , his own red book. In 1962 she came under the spotlight when the discussion began and she opposed some of Nasser’s ideas and chapters about the family and the role of women as far as I understand. It was not a real opposition but rather a difference in opinion.

Later that year she was appointed as the minister of the social affairs on the 29th of September 1962 to become the first woman minister in the history of Egypt. She left the ministry in 1970 and returned back to teaching in universities in Egypt and in the Arab world. Abu Zaid had to leave Egypt and move in to work in Libya since 1975 along with her husband during the Sadat era. Living in Libya turned in to a self exile when she rejected the Camp David treaty. She assured in the interview  that her Egyptian nationality was not stripped nor her properties were confiscated like what was claimed.

Here is a photo gallery for her in 1960s

Whether  you agree or disagree with Dr. Hekmat , you can’t deny she is a great example on a how the Egyptian woman can achieve.

Photo Source : The memory of modern Egypt


  1. I dnt think we give enough credit to our grand parents and parents. The fact is, while the level of education wasnt high, there were more ppl who were cultured. Many families from small villages in Upper Egypt and elsewhere sent their kids to schools and in return their kids built their careers from scratch. Im not a fan of Nasser but it seems that at this time it was possible for hard workers to make it through, which is not the prevailing case now. I pray she gets well and wonder why were she hosted by Cairo Uni to allow us the staff and students to listen to her ideas and experiences instead of the boring and bland ppl they love to host and hand out unmerited prizes to?

  2. they previously featured her in a reportage in Masr El Naharda as soon as she was in the hospital -as I remember because she slipped and broke her pelvic- she complained of not receiving healthcare and as soon as the interview finished the big hypocrite said that the first lady ordered that she would receive health for free...

  3. It always amazes me that many people quote so many excellent achievements from the Nasser period, and further amazes me if they add 'although I am not a fan of Nasser, well researching the pros and cons of the Nasser period, to me it is obvious he was the only leader who really loved Egypt and put it above his own personal interests, like all other president's of Egypt until the present 'one', he had a military background but, considering he came after years of occupation without any political experience, he proved to be a natural leader, one that many Egyptians respected, unlike those that followed. He lacked political foresight, never imagining that his policies made for a vastly smaller population would continue to this day, he would have made the necessary changes, if he had of somehow lived until now. Compare Nasser to any other middle eastern dictators or freely 'elected' president's and he by far was the only true leader, and it is understandable that the first and only minister came to power during his era.
    I do not understand either of Anonymous comments, who was the big 'hypocrite'? Again after reading great achievements by a wonderful woman who like Nasser fought for the poor, the commenter adds 'she is a big hypocrite'! I can think of some perfect examples of current 'hypocrites' and she would not be on the list.


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