The general secretariat of the Egyptian Writers Conference chose Farida Al-Nakash to be the president of the 32nd session of the conference.
The choice of the secretariat for Al-Nakash to be the president of the conference was welcomed by many writers and intellectuals, not only for her being the first woman to preside over the conference, but also for her cultural and creative existence, as she is a journalist who has worked in several media organisations, as well as a member of several civic and women’s associations and institutions.
Furthermore, she became the editor-in-chief of a literary and critic magazine and was the first female editor-in-chief for Al-Ahali newspaper.
On this occasion, Daily News Egypt interviewed Farida Al-Nakash to discuss her role in the conference that is scheduled to be held this year from 15 to 17 December in South Sinai, carrying the name of the dean of Arabic literature, Taha Hussein.
Moreover, the conference will witness many cultural and literary events, including seminars, poetry evenings, and research discussions.
In your opinion, why has a woman not been appointed to be the president of the conference before?
It is the woman’s general status in Egypt; she is always the last in line and the first one to be excluded.
There are always reservations on the appointment of women in senior positions, whether in the state or the society institutions, as a result of the masculinity culture established hundreds of years ago.
The writers have an enlightening and progressive view of women, but they didn’t think before to appoint a woman as a president of the conference.
In your opinion, why were you chosen for this position?
I am no stranger to this cultural conference. I have been one of its founders, a permanent member of its general secretariat since its inception, and I left this position only when I became editor-in-chief for Al-Ahali newspaper.
Moreover, I participated in all its editions with a few exceptions, so I was the first one who people thought about when 2017 was announced as a year for women.
In the 2003 edition, you supported the female writers and intellectuals by suggesting a session to discuss women’s creativity. Tell us about this suggestion and how it was received by the conference president and secretariat.
I suggested introducing a group of new female narrators, poets, writers, and critics. The proposal was warmly welcomed and widely supported by all the writers—even the conference president and secretariat.
Moreover, this session was an enjoyable one, where all women read some of their work, and there was a lot of discussion about women’s creativity.
What recommendations will you put forward this year at the conference to support women?
I have not yet seen the agenda or the research that will take part in the conference, but I have a set of general ideas that I will make during the conference. The main one is to continue what I began in 2003, which is to introduce more women from all governorates across Egypt.
What are the greatest challenges facing female writers nowadays?
The main challenge is the narrow spaces of freedom despite the breadth of speaking platforms.
Are women still suffering from different kinds of discrimination by men in cultural mediums?
Yes, it was no coincidence that the Constitution of 2014 issued an article calling for the establishment of a commission against discrimination and not against the discrimination of Christians only.
Meanwhile, there is discrimination against many groups, such as women, blacks, and poor people. But women are at the heart of this discrimination.
Moreover, this exists in all circles, including the intellectuals.
What do you think about the lawsuit that Omnia Gadallah filed against the State Council for not enrolling women in the council?
This is an old case dating back to 1951, when Aisha Rateb graduated from the Faculty of Law. She asked to join the State Council and submitted her papers. She was told that there is no legal impediment and this is your right, but the circumstances are not appropriate.
Furthermore, years passed and the State Council continues to say the same thing as what Al-Sanhoury said in 1951 to Aisha Rateb.
2017, which was announced by the president as the year of women, is nearing an end. In your opinion, what were the radical changes that occurred during this year to improve the status of women?
There have been no radical changes. All changes were formalities so far. There are positions where women are forbidden to enter, and women’s unemployment rate is three times the unemployment rate of men.
Women’s poverty is still more than that of the general population in Egyptian society.
Meanwhile, the president appointed the first female governor this year, which was a great achievement, but not a radical change, as radical change in the society is linked to the policies that eliminate phenomena such as exploitation, poverty, or discrimination.
As the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women approaches, in your opinion, what are the most prominent types of violence against Egyptian women?
It is said, but I did not study this issue, that sexual harassment in Egypt is the highest harassment rate in the world, although I doubt that. But discrimination against women, domestic violence, poverty, and illiteracy are kinds of violence against women in Egypt.