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First Woman Bidding to be Egyptian President

The online biography of Bothaina Kamel reads: “Journalist, mother & Egyptian presidential candidate”. Not a lot of people can say that. In fact no one can – Kamel is the first to run for the presidency in the history of her country, writes Bin Adewunmi in the Guardian.

The 49-year-old announced her candidacy on Twitter, and her presence on the social networking site is no accident. She presented a popular call-in radio show for its young demographic for six years, talking them through their problems.

She is no stranger to politics either. In 2005, she was a co-founder of We Are Watching You, an election monitoring group set up to observe parliamentary elections. A year later, she took a break from her job as a journalist on state television because she objected to reading stories she believed to be false. She also set up the civil organisation Egyptians Against Corruption.

Fighting corruption and poverty are the main focus of her campaign – she’s running as an independent but describes herself as a social democrat. “I may be a woman,” she says, “but women’s rights are not my only focus. I want the rights of all Egyptians.”

Nan Sloane, director of the Centre for Women and Democracy says it is unlikely that Kamel will be successful. “Usually in countries where there is no history of women’s participation to a significant level, those who come through to the rarefied senior roles tend to come through family connections.” But, she notes, “anything is possible, particularly in a volatile situation. I would never say never.”

But feminist and activist Nawal El-Saddawi says she won’t be voting at all in the elections. “Women are excluded from most of the posts, committees and activities. First we change the laws of political parties and then, after that, we can have the elections. We want to change the constitution to have a equality for all Egyptians regardless of gender or class or religion.”