Posted: March 23rd, 2023

The Causes and Effects of the 2011 Arab Uprising


Women played a very important role during the 2011 Arab Uprising in Tunisia six years ago. From Tunis and Riyadh to Cairo and Sana’a, women protesters became the iconic images of the Arab revolt. They were in the front lines of change and were involved in various activities, demonstrating their zeal, zest, and commitment to have their pleas overheard and acted upon. Apart from protesting alongside their male counterparts, women launched social media campaigns, blogged passionately and prolifically on issues pertaining to their rights, led in street demonstrations, and covered the demonstrations as broadcasters and journalists. The vigorous participation of women in the Arab revolutions surprised many, especially in the West, who regarded women in the Arabian countries as beleaguered victims of regimes characterized by conventional patriarchy and religious conviction.

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Nevertheless, the younger generation of the Arabian women is significantly better as compared to the older generations. Not only do they marry later and control their reproductive systems, but they also have professions that enable them to work outside their homes. Despite this aspect, their demand for a better political and social sphere that guarantees greater freedom has been building for long, with the Arab uprisings of 2011 being viewed as the climax of the prolonged demands by women. Although the issues surrounding women were the center of discourses during the events of the Arab uprising and after the “dust settled,” the women’s efforts were critical to the Arab revolution, but there is no guarantee that it will result into long-term political, economic, and social gains.

Historical Context

To understand the magnitude and impacts of the political tremors in the Middle East region on women’s rights, it is imperative to highlight the historical position of women in the region and the role they played during the insurrection period of 2011.[1] The notion that women’s legal, social, and economic statuses in Arab countries are worse than in any other part of the world is a common view. Indeed, Islamic teachings and law determine the recommended and prescribed role of females in this region, which in turn plays a momentous role in determining the status and position of women. In the Middle East, women are generally perceived as wives and mothers who are supposed to nurture their offspring and care for their husbands and homes.[2]

Segregation based on gender is habitual and, at times, lawfully required. For a woman to earn social status, she has to marry and reproduce. Before the Arab uprising, women, unlike their male counterparts, could only travel and work with a written permission from a husband or a male guardian, failure to which she would be regarded as having a bad reputation entitled to punishment. Economical provision of women and their children was the responsibility of men. Men had the autarchic right of marital break-up as opposed to women who were supposed to be loyal and submissive to their polygamous husbands. To date, Islam dictates the institutional and lawful safeguards of honor through Shari ’a (Islamic Law), thereby mitigating and supporting the caste societal system according to gender. Not only are gender disparities experienced in the household and social domains, but also they are manifested in the literacy and education spheres as well as in the political arena.[3] In fact, the participation of women in the labor force and politics in the Middle East and North Africa Muslim countries are still the lowest, a factor that is attributable to the low statuses of women in the region.

Pre-Uprisings Policies of Tunisia and Egypt

In Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Islam plays a very important role in determining the political and social life of individuals. Owing to the fact that neither Hadith nor the Quran gives a clear definition of the role of Islam women, the effect and the impact of Sharia’s regulation depends on the manner in which a state interprets it and how it links to the communities’ traditions. In both Tunisia and Egypt, the girl child has fewer rights than the boy child. [4] However, some regimes, such as Tunisia, had enacted some women-rights policies, thanks to the country’s high literacy rates among women. Although Islam was the initially named religion in Tunisia, over the past few decades, the laws that govern the nation have been more secular and have supported the various women’s rights, including access to contraceptives and legalization of abortions. In addition, polygamous has now been pronounced as illegitimate, while the women have been accorded marital and divorce rights and have set a minimum age at which individuals get married. The pre-spring Egypt regime had also enacted policies that gave women the rights to litigate for divorces and had implemented women-conducive environment for elections.

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Protesting Period

In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa countries, women helped in spurring the Arab revolution and actively participated in all of them. The protests were founded on the issues surrounding the freedom and liberty for women from patriotism and tyranny as opposed to religious ones. Individual women played fundamental roles in instigating and maintaining the protests until the end of the springs. In Egypt, Esraa Abdel Fattah is known to have played a very significant role in ending the oppressive dictatorial system. [5]Abdel started her political activism in 2008 when she created a group on Facebook and planned a strike among her co-workers in Mahalla al-Kobra, which is thought to be a vital precedent of the Arab revolt in 2011-2012. Her online and public demonstrations during the uprisings made her noticeable throughout the nation and other observers. In fact, she was a conspicuous character in the democracy and human rights activists throughout the region.

Lisa Ben Mhenni, a cyber-activist, blogger and a lecturer at Tunis University was another noticeable figure in Tunisia. In fact, she organized various campaigns through online platforms that called for setting free of people incarcerated due to their fight for women’s rights, including journalists, politicians, bloggers, and students alike. During the demonstrations in 2011 when other reporters were silent, she went for an extra mile to see that the developments of the protests were reported and well documented not only in her country but also across distance and space, thanks to technological advancements. She even traveled all over her country in an attempt to create awareness to her people on the activities that were being undertaken.

            Although women protested alongside their male counterparts, it was visible that they were pursuing divergent goals that were unique to their distinct gendered statuses in the Islamic society. Nevertheless, the protests made the pleas of the issues of women’s rights the center of the demands. More than ever before, women became instrumental in all aspects of the drive ascribing to a post-colonial women’s liberation administration that precluded their subjection and accorded them unique considerate roles. During the protests, women suffered from various severe forms of oppression and violence than they had experienced in the pre-spring epoch. While some were handcuffedto prevent them from taking part in the protests, others were harassed, tortured, teargassed, and even shot by spinners. There was no distinction in the manner in which activities aimed at curbing the protests were administered between men and women. The most awful forms of violence carried out on women at this particular time was instances of rape and sexual harassment as well as virginity tests that threatened to destroy the future of females in the Middle East and North Africa region. Worst of all was the fact that some of these activities were carried out by government mercenaries who are elected to protect and safeguard their very rights.

Implications of Political Tremors in MENA

            Indeed, women played a critical role during the political tremors in the Middle East and North Africa that occurred between 2011 and 2012 that saw most of their pleas discussed and policies implemented in their distinct countries.[6] As a matter of fact, their protests in teargas-filled spheres alongside their male counterparts brought some change in the course of the Arab Spring.

The Tunisian Revolt

            Tunisia was one of the countries that witnessed enormous numbers of fatalities and death of women during the Arab Uprising, which indicate their active involvement and participation. Female protestors from this region confrontedtear gas, actively wrote blogs, and volunteered as nurses who took care of their fellow injured demonstrators. They also took part in every feminine movement that brought tremor to the Muslim world. Despite their active role and involvement in the Arabian uprising, social and political assertions of female and male activists alike have not included females and equal rights.[7] Their calls and protests have borne little fruits since they are not considered a priority. In fact, the media primarily ignored them though the protest discourses. Not a single day was the topic of equality for women been posted or discussed in the mainstream media. During the aftermath of the revolution, the Tunisian administration adopted equality in the law governing the manner in which elections were carried out. The law stipulated that the list of candidates contesting should include 50 percent of women.[8] The only flaw with this law is that it failed to specify the exact positions that the elected women should occupy. Even after holding their elections when women won nearly 27 percent of the seats in the new Constituent Assembly and three other nominated for the various governmental positions, women in parliament are still underrepresented. Important to note is that the battle has not just been about including women in various decision-making processes, but to ensure that equality across all arenas, including economic, social and political as well as the entire women rights umbrella are supported, implemented, and advanced. In order to acquire democracy which is the prerequisite of gender equality and community development, the Tunisian government should replace the disparities and chaos with smooth consolidation, with women rights spearheading the national discourses until they are at par with their male counterparts.

Egypt at a Glance

            Just as in Tunisia, the role of women in the revolt called for better conditions for women and rights in all aspects of their lives including education, political, social, economic, and health. In the aftermath of the revolt, Egyptian women have experienced shifting dynamics in the new political and social landscape. True to say is that they have been accorded some rights that were narratives to prior generations. However, their growth is still in the infancy stages. During this post-revolutionary era, various trends have appeared to be in favor of curtailing the social, political, and the economical statuses of women. In fact, some initiatives are even attempting to cancel the hard-won laws and regulations with the intentions of limiting the advancement of women as equal citizens who can have the powers and mandate to participate equally in society.

            Primarily, women have not been allowed to participate in the key decision-making process that involved the political transition from authoritarianism to democracy. In fact, no female was involved in the constitutional commission undertakings, with only one woman participating in the interim cabinet. Statements from activists who aired the importance of involving women in the decision-making processes were referred to the Prime Minister and the Military Council. Their pleas attempted to explain the fact that Egyptian women were important players of the revolution since the revolution could not have been successful in their absentia. However, their appeals were ignored along with gender equality and women’s rights by the two governmental bodies.

            Preceding the 2011 elections in Egypt, many women joined new political parties, which was a factor that gave hope that women would be able to assert their rights in due course. Conversely, the newly enacted electoral law failed to offer fair opportunities for the newly formed political alliances by not putting many women in the top lists. The repercussion was that few women won positions in the following parliament, which also lowered the possibility of pushing forward the agenda on women’s rights. The reconstruction of the Egypt National Council for Women (NCW) sheds a ray of light on the plight of women. A work plan that was formulated and signed by the Prime Minister aimed at enhancing the socioeconomic statuses and the rights of women in order to increase their involvement and participation in elections and electoral proceedings was issued. Various non-governmental organizations, as well as the civil society, have networked with the National Council for Women in Egypt in the support of issues and rights of women. The NCW has achieved several successful campaigns, including the female genital mutilation campaign in Southern Egypt. The movement was also in the frontline in the challenging the legislation that had been introduced by the Islamic religious extremism in the cabinet calling for the retraction of the law that guaranteed Egyptian women the right to sue divorce on their husbands and take custody of children.

            Although the legal rights of women were inarguably important contributing factor to their political, social, as well as economic statuses both before and after the Mubarak regimes, it is beyond any reasonable doubt that in the near future, the rights of Egyptians could be capriciously violated or suspended. Currently, there have been large underperformances with regard to meaningful implementation of policies concerned with the plight of women in this nation. The allocation of women in parliamentary positions that was initiated by Mubarak, which reserved 12 percent of senatorial seats for women, only female members of Mubarak’s party won the positions. Surprisingly, some parties have attempted to eliminate this allocation, with some requiring one woman to be on the list, but not the winning list. Additionally, no woman has been considered fit to contest for the governorship position even after Mubarak’s regime was removed from power. Another important occurrence that has demonstrated how gender dynamics of political movements have yielded controversy about women’s rights and equality after the spring is the fact that women are yet to be allowed to serve as judges. In addition, women have been facing hostility and violence in their attempts to seek for these positions in the male-dominated Egyptian regime.

Yemen at a Glance

            The Yemeni uprising, also known as the Yemeni Revolution, occurred shortly after Tunisia started her revolution, and was simultaneous to that of Egypt and other revolts in the Arab region. During the initial stages of the Yemeni revolution, the protests were based on issues regarding unequal employment opportunities, the corrupt regime, the poor economic conditions, and the call against President Saleh’s administration proposal to review the Yemen constitution. This was followed by mass protests that demanded the resignation of their president. During this time, Yemeni women were active in participating along their male counterparts in their attempt to resolve the teething issues in their country. However, their agenda was reshaped shortly after the revolt started. They demanded a constitution that promoted gender equality in all arenas, including the political realm.

Prior to the uprising of 2011, Saleh administration only had two women who served as heads government commissions, and only one woman out of three hundred and one served as a member of parliament.[9] Indeed, the gap between women and men was wide with regard to politics and other social institutions such as economic participation, educational achievements, social empowerment, and health and survival, to name but a few. In mid-February 2011, scattered applause was heard when a young woman by the name Tawakkol Karman stepped onto a crate in the frontal region of Sanaa University located in the capital city of Yemen. She wore a black robe and had a flowered headscarf, also known as hijab in the Muslim community. She called for the attention of her fellow students and pleaded with them to become active participants of the political movement that was taking its course at the time.

Although her speech was initially based on the existing social issues that had created the revolution of 2011, she also noted that social injustices and exploitations are mounting, which were aspects that reduced their opportunities for a better life. It was during this time that she did something extraordinary. She called a faction of females and urged them to engage in revolt without seeking for permission from their male counterparts, a thing that was a taboo in the Muslim-dominated nation. She insisted that women should no longer become victims of oppression, rather, they should participate in the political realm through being elected to the various political positions, and hence turn out to be equal citizens of the new Yemen country, which made her win the coveted Nobel Peace Award.

Shortly after the fall of President Saleh’s regime, Karman came up with her second petition. She wanted the women in Yemen to be included in the new political and constitutional order of the Republic of Yemen. In her petition, she identified a challenge that was greater than the authoritarianism regime of President Saleh. Evidently, Yemen had been one of the worst nations hit by the issue of gender inequality. Despite this fact, women still pioneered in the Yemen uprising, but the topic that threatened to destroy their participation in their nation’s discourses had not been brought to the table until the removal of President Saleh from power. The main objective of the earlier revolts was to bring to an end the despotic administration, but not to terminate patriarchy.[10] From Tunisia to Morocco, all the way to Asian land, despotic rulers started falling apart. Consequently, the demands of individuals who were engaging in the protests increased. As such, the women of Yemen, just as others in various states, gained confidence in bringing their issues on board. They wanted to transform the egalitarian atmosphere of the brief revolt to become a lifelong revolution that would transform their statuses in the male dominated society.

With regard to this issue, they became more and more active in public demonstrations aimed at airing the issue of women’s equality. Led by Karman and other feminist activists, they organized rallies for women and other concerned individuals. Not only did they spend sleepless nights in protest camps, but they also went on hunger strikes while at the same time covering the topics of bloggers and photojournalists. Indeed, many females lost their lives, especially during the administration’s bloody embargo, in the quest for gender equality and other rights related to women. Even in the face of death, they were assertive and strong. Even if it meant losing their lives for the sake of women of the following generations, women stood firm on their ground and did not take it when men chanted that politics should be left to them while women returned to their normal oppressive livelihood.

A Long Journey Ahead

            The narratives celebrating the efforts that reaped various successes in the Arab uprising dominated the early media coverage on the extensive participation of women in the demonstrations. However, there has been more skeptical media coverage showing mixed results in the post-uprising period. As it is palpable from the outcome of springs, there is no guarantee that the Arab revolt of 2011 will result into long-term political, economic, and social gains for women. The events of 2011 in the MENA region have not only flipped over the political order, but they have also unleashed new cultural, social, and religious dynamics. Several countries such as Tunisia and Egypt have witnessed the establishment of women’s rights, but they are yet to acquire the full rights that will equate them to their male counterparts. Governments within the MENA region and the Muslim world at large ought to understand that democracy is fundamental to exploring the heights of development and gender equality. 

Women and the Arab Spring

Besides the gains made by women Cole Juan and Cole affirms that the Arab Spring was dominated by women who not only demonstrated but also engaged in different activities of toppling despot governments as a way of increasing the awareness about their rights.[11] The author states that despite the poor media coverage, the role of women in the Arab Spring was great.  Women were visible in virtually every aspect of the Arab Spring.

Women were bold during the Arab Spring in the sense that they marched in the streets and demonstrated against the existing governments. The author takes a deep exploratory evaluation of the Quran regarding sex and gender by stating that Islam through the Quran opposes the patriarchal society in which men are placed superior to women.[12] Therefore, the gains made by women in Tunisia and Egypt after the Arab Spring was in line with the basic tenets of Islam.

Impact of Arab Spring on Gender Equality

            Gender equality in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen after the Arab Spring is a positive affair in the sense that the changes made in these societies following the end of the worst phase in the history of the Arab world ushered in a new world that was free from inequality. New laws have been passed that guarantee the protection of the rights of women in these countries. Women have increased in representative bodies like Parliament while their role in championing their rights has also improved significantly. However, it is not possible to understand the elements of women empowerment in these countries before developing a proper understanding of their role in the Arab Spring.

Although the media denied them coverage, women participated in the mass protests during the Arab Spring. In fact, this underscores their commitment towards creating a society free from gender discrimination. Therefore, the Arab Spring and the period that followed can be described as women’s affairs on account of the role and benefits of women respectively. The role of women in the Arab Spring catapulted their empowerment following the legal reforms that followed. Women participated in the uprising that led to regime change in the Arab Spring, hence increasing the pace at which change was achieved.

The results of their participation yielded more women friendly legal stipulations. However, these did not come without a fight as women in Tunisia had to reject barbaric clauses in the constitution regarding women.[13] The formation of women’s rights organizations, participation in elections, standing for elective positions, and eventually being elected led to the attainment of women empowerment following the Arab Spring.

The Arab world has heralded a new era of women’s participation in civic and political affairs; this echoes the growing consciousness towards women empowerment and is based on the link between women empowerment and economic development as well as social emancipation. It is apparent that the attainment of equal rights for both men and women through political representation and the role played increased the chances of socio-economic transformation in the countries. In fact, this underscores the importance of the new legal regimes in Yemen, Tunisia, and Egypt that offer a great concentration to the empowerment of women.

Women Empowerment in Tunisia

According to Charrad and Zarrugh, the changing state of Tunisia regarding women empowerment following the Arab Spring is a positive development. [14] The authors begin from a period when women engaged in protests across the country during the Arab Spring. It is an established fact that women participated in the campaign for the fall of the Ben Ali government.  After the fall of this government, women participated in civil activities, contested in elections, and formed rights organizations. The role of women’s public life in Tunisia indicates the shifting roles of women in society following the Arab Spring. Women played part in the protests that brought down dictatorial regimes and benefited from the change of laws to usher in a gender sensitive government dispensation.

Therefore, it is important to note that the role of women was important in attaining the ideas of gender equality that govern today’s societies in Tunisia and Egypt. Tunisia is a case in point of how the fight for women’s rights went beyond the Arab Spring to actual participation in law making processes. Women took to the streets to oppose any legal provisions that violated their rights. Indeed, this led to the enlightenment of legal provisions that supported gender equality. Women’s role in political affairs was well guaranteed through contesting for elections, voting, winning and becoming part of representative bodies, including parliaments.

The new dispensation in Tunisia is enough reason to show that women have made several gains regarding their equal rights and empowerment. Women have several rights entrenched in the constitution that hinder in equal opportunities regarding participation in public life. Equal opportunity granted to women has increased the number of women in public places like leadership. Representation in assemblies is one of the signs that women have made several gains in their quest to participate in national building. In fact, this offers an evaluation of how important the Arab Spring was.

At the time when the constitution was being drafted in Tunisia, women participated and often protested against provisions that belittled the role, status, and dignity of women in society. In essence, this indicates the changing state of the Arab world following the Arab Spring.

The Achievements and what Lies Ahead in Tunisia

Despite the fact that women played an important role in the realization of political freedom in Tunisia, they could still lose these benefits. However, the continued fight for emancipation has increased their chances of success since the new constitutional dispensation witnessed in these countries have entrenched the rights of women. There were opposing forces for the rights of women. For instance, in Tunisia there were clauses inserted in the constitution that went against the empowerment of women. Women leaders and activists stood for their rights thus increasing the chances of success. Eventually, the clauses were repealed. Women were part of every protest and demonstrations often risking their lives and safety to drive the message home.

In Tunisia, the women’s rights, particularly their participation in civic and political matters is entrenched in the constitution. The constitution of Tunisia guarantees the rights of women through the various acts that consider the equal participation of women in political and civil matters. Indeed, this has led to the element of equal opportunity for both men and women in political matters. Worth noting is that the assurances regarding the rights on election participation, candidacy, and on voting are stipulated in Article 34.

At this point, the constitution indicates that women can vote for the leaders they want. In addition, women can participate in elections as candidates where they contest elective positions. The representation of women in elected bodies is also entrenched in the constitution through Article 34. This article offers very strategic gains for women in the political Arena that increases the chances of women becoming leaders.

Article 46 of the constitution of Tunisia offers an obligation to the safeguard of women’s rights. This has increased the equality regarding opportunities putting women and men in every aspect of public life. Therefore, women equally have access to opportunities in diverse avenues of public service just like men. As exemplified by the Tunisian constitution, the elected assemblies are avenues for equality as the state is committed to ensuring the equality of women’s representation in these bodies.

Another important aspect of women empowerment is protection from violence. Violence against women is vehemently opposed in this article as the state articulates its commitment towards the eradication of gender based violence. In fact, this aims at reducing the discrimination faced by women in the society.

There is a shift from politics from above to politics from below in the sense that women have increased their participation in political affairs, including making demands in what they want. Public policy making processes are characterized by gender debates that are anchored on the development of an atmosphere that supports gender equality. This is a positive development in account of the fact that it is essential to guarantee the success in a society through the role of women. The gender based politics have been brought about by the changing state of women and their roles in society.

The end of the Arab Spring marked the beginning of a new twist in a political realignment with women playing a much bigger role towards policy making.[15] The emergence of rights organizations advocating for the rights of women and the development of policies that increase the role of women in public activities has been a positive development. Therefore, this has led to a change in the way policies and laws are being made and this is a conduit towards an inclusive society.

            Inclusivity is an important element of every society because a society is characterized by people of diverse religions, cultures, races, and gender. By embracing newness in the way politics is being handled, the Arab world is simply heralding a new dawn that increases the attainment of positive outcomes. The participation of women in public debates and political affairs is a channel for a better and more inclusive society that does not discriminate any person. Human beings should be treated equally as they are of the same kind. National policies and leadership positions should be for all to pursue and participate in irrespective of their gender.

The changing state of the Arab world is a sign of great things to come because when women play their role in socio-political and economic affairs, the chances of development are high. In developed countries, success has been achieved by giving women opportunity to play part on public processes. The increase in transparency, inclusivity, and participation of women in policymaking, lawmaking, activism, and politics will increase the rate of development in these countries. In fact, this developmental phase should be preserved. It must be acknowledged that women empowerment is opposed in many fronts. In the Arab or Muslim world, the biggest obstacles towards and inclusive society are fundamentalist forces. There are several radical groups that do not agree with women empowerment. They must be dealt with accordingly as a way of increasing the success of this new dispensation.

The political developments made in these countries after the Arab Spring must be protected as a way of ensuring that they are not eroded. There should be democratization in the Arab world to ensure that power is transferred smoothly from one government to another.[16] Laws should be put in place to guard against all experiences associated with the dictatorship and misuse of power. The people should not let the countries slip back into the previous political hardship experienced prior to the Arab Spring. The pain and struggle endured during the fight for political freedoms should be enough lessons in preserving the democratic space.

Women in Tunisia refused the initial discriminatory clause in the Constitution during the debate prior to the establishment of a new constitution. Women organized protests in 2012 where they asserted their completeness and ability to participate fully in all activities like men. This underscored their commitment towards being equal to men regarding the access to opportunity. Women had participated in these protests, but as it came to pass, the extremist elements were determined to undermine the rights of women after the Arab Spring.

Women were determined to consolidate their position, space, and opportunity in the new dispensation. Tunisia is a case in point of the long quest for political freedom that started during the Arab Spring but continued after that. From 2011 when the Ben Ali government had been overthrown by mass protests, Tunisia experienced many changes in government, activism, the increasing role of civil society, and leadership. A series of elections were held where elective positions were contested. A series of debates were held all over the country with the provisional templates being made for the writing of the country’s constitution. The increasing role of women in the affairs of Tunisia is one of the most outstanding elements of the transformation in the country.

The role of women in the public activities in Tunisia is lengthy in the sense that it includes their role in mass demonstrations, contesting elections, winning elective positions, forming rights groups in advocating for equality, as well as mobilizing issues around the writing of the constitution. It would be incomplete to describe the transformations of Tunisia from the Arab Spring to date without mentioning the role of women in the same.

The Jasmine Revolution

            The jasmine revolution that brought to the end of the Ben Ali regime brought a series of transformations in Tunisia where women played a vital role in politics along with civil society. The peak of women’s involvement in public policy issues is underscored by the article 28 of the initial sample of the new constitution. This chapter was released in 2012 and attracted a strong criticism from women who participated in a heated debate on the issues. In fact, this underscored their commitment towards an inclusive society that respected the rights of all. Women were not just satisfied with their role in bringing down the government of Ben Ali but wanted to go beyond that by acquiring stakes in the government through the new constitution. Women understood that the only way to guarantee their empowerment was through the entrenchment of good provisions in the constitution.

The contentious clause involved the use of the term complementary regarding the relationship between men and women.[17][18] Women through their organizations and support groups opposed the use of these words in the Tunisian constitution alleging that it belittled them compared to men. Hence, this brought about a heated debate on whether to use the term complementary or equal in the constitution regarding the relationship between men and women. Public protests were spurred by the spreading of notes regarding the contentious clauses.

The two sides of the conflict were women’s rights who wanted the term equal to be used in the constitution, referring to their relationship to men while the Islamist party wanted the word complementary used for that purpose. This was a sign of change in the Tunisian society from a society where things were determined from above to a society where things were resolved from below. Women were articulate about what they wanted and advocated that through all the means possible, women were willing to go to great lengths to prove their point regarding their position in society. Therefore, one of the most important events of the Arab spring and the period that followed was the role of women in socio-political activities. Women flooded the streets in Tunisia to oppose dictatorial governments; they also opposed bad laws that discriminated women. As we speak, women are members of assemblies and have also formed rights groups to advocate for their rights.

Women Empowerment in Egypt

In Egypt, women could easily be seen at Tahir Square protesting, a move that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government. A woman organized the protests through a video post in Facebook. In general, more than 20% of the crowds demonstrating in Egypt were women. This underscores the opportunity to fight by women in the Arab world. The Arab Spring offers a platform for women to exercise their right for political emancipation. The fight has been extended to the past protest era with women taking hard positions in political and social organizations on matters of importance to them.

Egypt has attained gender equality through constitutional amendments that have guaranteed the role of women in political affairs.[19] This underscores that women were the agents of change during the Arab Spring and they played an important role in increasing the democratization of their societies. This is one of the greatest positive developments in women empowerment. The events following the Arab Spring indicate how important it is for women to play part in political affairs in their societies. The democratization of Tunisian and Egyptian societies could not have been possible without the role of women. By fighting for gender inclusivity at all levels of society and government, the women played a role in increasing the democratic space in their countries of origin. This not only increased their role and participation in political matters but also augmented the chances of success in achieving positive outcomes.

In spite of the fact that women were not given enough media coverage, they were visible in virtually every aspect of the Arab Spring. Women were bold during the Arab Spring in the sense that they marched in the streets and demonstrated against the existing governments. Women played different roles towards the attainment of the goals of the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring was women’s affairs in the sense that women played a direct role during the protests.

Egypt has also heralded a new constitutional dispensation that guarantees the equality of women. In Egypt, the post-2014 constitution has revolutionized the state of women’s representation in the country. This has increased the role of women in national building. The degree of women’s representation in political and legislative assemblies has increased. There is a skyrocketing difference in women’s representation in parliament at 14%. This indicates that following the Arab Spring women have gained ground in the country regarding representation. Following the Arab Spring, The number of women elected in parliament has risen significantly, indicating that women have benefited from the change. The new constitution has consolidated the rights of women in an unprecedented manner.

The clause of equal opportunity in the Egyptian Constitution has envisaged the growing importance of women’s participation in all activities without discrimination. Women are given the same rights as men regarding the ability to access opportunity. The recognition of the family as the basis of society has increased the status of women as custodians of family and society. The role of women in motherhood and childbearing has been recognized, and women have been given rights over their reproductive health as a boost towards equal rights.

In Egypt, women have made great gains in their fight for equal rights as the law recognizes the equality of all human beings irrespective of gender. This increases their voice, space and their contribution in mainstream society. The empowerment of women in Egypt indicates how the Arab Spring offered myriad opportunities for emancipation among women. Therefore, first, we evaluate their role in the Arab spring where women were documented as having taken a great role in championing for the new era of liberation.

After that, the legal reforms that were made led to the empowerment of women. However, it is also important to note that these reforms were not easy to come as women had to fight hard through participation in the process of writing the constitution as well as activism by forming rights groups. Finally, we evaluate how women have been the beneficiaries of the post-Arab Spring reforms which indicate their achievement in obtaining empowerment and equal rights. The most important aspect of the entire evaluation is the fact that the empowerment of women after a long war during the Arab Spring is a positive development. However, we need to go further and explain how and why this is a positive development. In essence, the attainment of equal rights of women in the Arab world is not just good for women but also good for society. Increasing the status, integrity, and participation of women in socio-political discourses intensifies the attainment of positive outcomes. This indicates that the Arab world is on the path to economic, political, and social transformation.

Women Empowerment in Yemen

In Yemen, there were several veiled women in Sanaa and Taiz who demonstrated against the rule of the dictator. This was a sign of courage and the fact that women were part of the effort to bring change shows that it is very important to empower and consider women for empowerment. Women organized demonstrations and blocked roads in a bid to have their husbands released. This was a sign of the importance of women in creating change. Women in the Arab world are not just beneficiaries of change following the Arab Spring but also suffered to create the necessary change of the same.[20] The author takes a deep exploratory evaluation of the Quran regarding sex and gender by stating that Islam through the Quran opposes the patriarchal society in which men are placed superior to men. Therefore, the gains made by women in Tunisia and Egypt after the Arab Springs are in line with the basic tenets of Islam. As a matter of fact, the empowerment of women in Egypt and Tunisia is an offshoot of great efforts by women during and after the Arab Spring.

Therefore, owing to the fact that Islam as a religion guarantees the equal treatment of men and women; the empowerment of women in Yemen following the Arab Spring is a positive development. This pillar does not go against the pillars of Islam that preserve the same opportunity for women and men. The societies have embraced a good strategy towards socio-economic development by increasing the participation of women in the affairs of public life. In essence, every society that seeks to optimize in development must ensure that women play their role in national building.  

Through a systematic examination of the inherent provisions of the Quran in the gender subject, the author exposes the distinction between sex and gender and how the former influences most Muslims perception of women. Therefore, it is apparent that the gains made in the Arab world after the Arab Spring regarding women empowerment have brought good tidings to the world and the Quran also supports this aspect. In fact, this increases the appropriateness of women empowerment in the Arab world by stating that it is part of the religious beliefs of Islam. The importance of this element is underscored by the growing use of religion to deny women, their rights, particularly in the Muslim world. Fundamentalist groups across the world have used religion as a tool of undermining the rights of women. Examples include the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic state.


            Steps have been made in Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt regarding women empowerment in the sense that there is equal participation of both men and women in political affairs. The role of women in political affairs in these countries can be traced from the Arab Spring where women participated in the protests that brought down governments considered dictatorial. In Egypt, women were among the protests who occupied Tahrir Square, which was the center of the protests that brought down the government of Hosni Mubarak. In Tunisia, women crowded the streets to oppose the Ben Ali government as a way of freeing the country from barbaric rule. In this case, there is a new constitutional dispensation in Egypt that guarantees equal participation of women in elections and policymaking. As a result, the number of women holding political offices has increased significantly. In Tunisia, women played an active role in bringing about a new constitution that respects the rights of women. Through opposing discriminatory clauses, women in Tunisia crafted a future for them that entrenched women empowerment in the country’s legal system. Therefore, there is light at the end of the tunnel in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, regarding women empowerment, which can be traced from the role they played in the Arab springs.



AsmaBarlas. Believing Women in Islam. Austin, US: University of Texas Press, 2002.       ProQuest ebrary. Web. 10 April 2017.

Mounira Charrad M. and AminaZarrugh. Equal or complementary? Women in the new Tunisian   Constitution after the Arab Spring, The Journal of North African Studies, 2014 Vol. 19, No. 2, 230–243

Juan Cole and ShahinCole.An Arab Spring for Women, April 26, 2011

RichardDavies Thomas. (2014). “The failure of strategic nonviolent action in Bahrain, Egypt,        Libya and Syria: ‘political ju-jitsu’ in reverse”, Global Change, Peace and Security, vol.          26, no. 3, pp. 299–313.

Rosiny, and T Richter, (2016). “The Arab Spring: Misconceptions and Prospects”. GIGA Focus Middle East No. 4/2016

Chris Steinitzand William McCants (2014). Reaping the Whirlwind: Gulf State Competition after the Arab Uprisings. Arlington, VA: CNA Corporation

Davies,T. R.  “The failure of strategic nonviolent action in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Syria: ‘political ju-jitsu’ in reverse”, Global Change, Peace and Security, vol. 26, no. 3 (2014),            pp. 299–313

[1]Steinitz, Chris and McCants, William (2014). Reaping the Whirlwind: Gulf State Competition after the Arab Uprisings. (Arlington, VA: CNA Corporation, 2014) 56

[2]Cole Juan and Cole Shahin.An Arab Spring for Women, April 26, 2011

[3]Rosiny, S. and Richter, T.. “The Arab Spring: Misconceptions and Prospects”. GIGA        Focus Middle East No. 4/2016. 2016

[4]Barlas, Asma. Believing Women in Islam. Austin, US: University of Texas Press, 2002. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 10 April 2017.

[5]Charrad Mounira M. and Zarrugh Amina. Equal or complementary? Women in the new Tunisian Constitution after the Arab Spring, The Journal of North African Studies, (2014) Vol. 19, No. 2, 233

[6]Rosiny, S. and Richter, T. “The Arab Spring: Misconceptions and Prospects”. GIGA Focus Middle East No. 4/2016, 2016

[7]Charrad Mounira M. and Zarrugh Amina. Equal or complementary? Women in the new Tunisian Constitution after the Arab Spring, The Journal of North African Studies, (2014) Vol. 19, No. 2, 239

[8]T. R. Davies, “The failure of strategic nonviolent action in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Syria: ‘political ju-jitsu’ in reverse”, Global Change, Peace and Security, vol. 26, no. 3 (2014),     pp. 300

 [9] “Arab Social Media Report: The Role of Social Media in Arab Women’s Empowerment.” In Arab Social Media Report. Dubai: Dubai School of Government, 2011.

[11] Barlas, Asma. Believing Women in Islam. Austin, US: University of Texas Press, 2002. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 10 April 2017.

[12] Ibid, 1.               

[13] Cole Juan and Cole Shahin.An Arab Spring for Women, April 26, 2011

[14]Charrad Mounira M. and Zarrugh Amina. Equal or complementary? Women in the new Tunisian Constitution after the Arab Spring, The Journal of North African Studies, (2014) Vol. 19, No. 2, 241.

[15]Davies, Thomas Richard. “The failure of strategic nonviolent action in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Syria: ‘political ju-jitsu’ in reverse”, Global Change, Peace and Security, vol. (2014)26, no. 3, pp. 300

[16]T. R. Davies, “The failure of strategic nonviolent action in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Syria: ‘political ju-jitsu’ in reverse”, Global Change, Peace and Security, vol. 26, no. 3 (2014), pp. 305

[17]Charrad Mounira M. and Zarrugh Amina. Equal or complementary? Women in the new Tunisian Constitution after the Arab Spring, The Journal of North African Studies, (2014) Vol. 19, No. 2, 342.

[18]Steinitz, Chris and McCants, William. Reaping the Whirlwind: Gulf State Competition after the Arab Uprisings. (Arlington, VA: CNA Corporation, 2014), 56

[19]Cole Juan and Cole Shahin.An Arab Spring for Women, April 26, 2011

[20]Barlas, Asma. Believing Women in Islam. Austin, US: University of Texas Press, 2002. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 10 April 2017.


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