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Women get four key portfolios in new Egypt government

Female experts picked for culture, environment, health and information posts

Gulf News

Cairo: Four key ministerial portfolios are set to go to women in Egypt’s new government, for the first time in the history of the conservative country.

The line-up of the interim government, headed by liberal economist Hazem Al Beblawi, is expected to be officially announced either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Four women have been picked to take over the ministries of health, culture, environment and information in the new cabinet.

Inas Abdul Dayem, a famed musician, is nominated to become culture minister. Abdul Dayem was sacked from her post as head of the Cairo Opera House weeks before the army’s overthrow of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi earlier this month. Abdul Dayem’s sacking enraged secular intellectuals who accused the then Islamist-backed culture minister Ala’a Abdul Aziz of promoting the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda.

Veteran TV anchor Dorya Sharaf Al Deen is set to take over the information ministry, succeeding Salah Abdul Maqsoud, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood to which Mursi belongs. Abdul Maqsoud was sharply criticised by the secular opposition allegedly for seeking to tighten Islamists’ grip on Egypt’s media.

“The people expect a lot from the new government despite the fact that it is an interim cabinet,” said Sharaf Al Deen following a meeting with Al Beblawi on Sunday. “This time the people is on the government’s side.”

On July 3, the army deposed Mursi following three days of street protests against his rule.

Laila Iskander, a Christian, has been chosen to become environment minister, while Dr Maha Al Rabat, a health care professional, is nominated to be health minister in the new 30-member cabinet.

“This is a very important step and marks a turning point in the history of Egyptian women,” said prominent female journalist and pro-women activist Ameena Shafiq. “Women are no longer a mere decorative symbol for the political regime,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Mursi’s ousted government had only two women as ministers of scientific research and social solidarity. Women were rarely given than two portfolios in the governments of Hosni Mubarak who was forced to step down in February 2011 following a popular uprising.

Egyptian women have complained about political marginalisation and allegedly systematic street harassment since Mubarak’s toppling.