The Seeds of a Quiet Gender Revolution in Egypt?

In Al-Ahram:

Amina, Samira and Mohamed are among a growing number of young people in Egypt today who have remained single for a myriad of reasons.

According to a recent Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) report, nine million Egyptians over the conventional marrying age of 35 are single. Surprisingly, the number of unmarried females is only 3.5 million, compared to 5.5 million unmarried males.

The report findings induced some MPs to say spinsterhood was becoming a threat to social stability, urging the government to take urgent steps to facilitate marriage. They suggested a handful of measures, such as providing young people with access to cheaper flats in newly established cities, starting campaigns to raise people’s awareness of the importance of reducing marriage costs, facilitating collective weddings and launching fundraising campaigns to provide young people with marriage loans.

To address the dire social consequences of the late marriage phenomenon, a collective effort between governmental and non-governmental parties — namely the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Communications, the National Council for Women, several social research centres and a number of NGOs — resulted in the launch of a campaign in 2005 under the slogan: “Marriage delay is not the end of the world”. The campaign target was single young women in several governorates; its aim being to integrate them into voluntary social and cultural activities that would render them active and productive members of society. As promising as it sounds, this campaign, which began in mid-2005, has faltered, as it seems to have been planned as a short-term project, with no strategy in place for its maintenance and progress.

Another slightly bizarre response to the singles phenomenon was adopted by Hayam Darbouk, the founder of the Right to Life NGO, whose motto is: “One wife is not enough.”