The Volunteer Women
Woman must be made equal to man and she must therefore shed the remaining shackles that impede her free movement, so that she may play a constructive and profoundly important part in shaping the life of the country. — Gamal Abdel Nasser, the 1962 Charter For National Action
The leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser is seen as a golden age for women’s rights by many. Encouraging women to work for wages outside the home, he instituted maternity leave policies, increased access to education, and increased avenues for affordable childcare. The 1956 Constitution gave women the right to vote and the ability to serve in public office.
One little-publicized outcome of both Nasser’s work toward publicly empowering women and the patriotic surge caused by the Suez Crisis in 1956 were the female recruits who volunteered for military action.
A few pictures are in the public showing these women, who look determined and motivated in their military service.
By 1971 and the new constitution under Anwar Sadat, things would change. The new constitution only allowed women to hold equal rights with men where it did not challenge Shari’ah law. The Military and National Service Act Number 127 of 190 stipulates that military combat roles are entirely reserved for men.
Women are now allowed only to serve as civilians or in non-combat specialist roles, such as physicians.
But it was not always that way – and the pictures of women who gathered en masse to volunteer as a line of defense for their nation remain as proof.
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