When I lived in Cairo last year, many Egyptians told me that the Arab Spring hadn’t improved anything. Things were worse than they were before the 2011 revolution. Food prices shot up. Young people still didn’t have jobs and didn’t care to vote. The military government crushed dissent, arresting journalists and activists alike. A Thomson Reuters poll named Cairo as the world’s most dangerous city for women in 2017, testifying to the double whammy of oppression Egyptian women endure.
Misogyny – the child of patriarchy and religious fundamentalism – grows stronger as Egypt enters one of the most repressive climates in recent history. In Egypt, the global outcry against sexual abuse is not even close to making a dent on the culture where women are second-tier citizens.
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s $416 million, five-year program to boost women’s leadership runs the risk of being irrelevant in a country where, just last month, a woman was beaten to death by a mob of men in broad daylight for allegedly burning a Quran. In a video taken by an onlooker, a man is seen taking a concrete block to smash her head. Her body was then set on fire and thrown into a river.
The issue is not just the legitimate concerns over the difficulties of implementing, monitoring and assessing the impact of the program amidst a NATO pullout, as the inspector general of the government watchdog on Afghanistan reconstruction pointed out.
Cyclone Nargis ravaged Myanmar in May of 2008, wiping out the Southeast Asian country’s western coast. The opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest, and the military Myanmar government, apprehensive about the waves of incoming foreign aid workers, allowed only Asian passport-holders to enter the country for post-disaster reconstruction work.