FJPonline interviewed Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) newly elected MP in Daqahleya Seham Al-Gamal, previously a candidate in the 2010 parliamentary election in the women's quota, where she fell victim to the widespread vote-rigging that marred all elections throughout the past couple of decades. From there it was only natural that she bid again in the first parliamentary elections following the revolution, topping the FJP electoral list in Mansoura.
FJPonline: When is it that you began community and social work?
Al-Gamal: I began in 1986 while I was a college student and worked in full force with the Student's Islamic Movement with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). After graduating I was more free since I didn't accept my post as an English teacher and chose to work full time in community work.
It was through the mosques that I joined Women's Charity Organizations. At the end of the 1990's and the beginning of this century organizations such as the 'Senable', 'Al-Bashaer' and 'Egypt Lovers' were formed.
As for political work, my role began when my brother was a candidate in the local council elections held in the '90s in the Awish Al-Hagar village on the MB's electoral list. My political work increased further during the 1990, 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections. I also participated regularly in the political salons discussions. In 2010 I was the MB's candidate for the women's quota in the first district in Daqahleya.
FJPonline: What are your thoughts to the allegations that women are reluctant to participate in politics?
Al-Gamal: Like all Egyptians, the Egyptian women suffered great injustice. The political atmosphere was corrupt dampening the spirit of any woman wishing to participate pro-actively on the political landscape. Politics was based on corruption and only groups that accepted this corruption flourished on the political arena accepting and benefiting from the fraud and the rigging of the elections in their favor.
The MB encouraged its female members to work actively in community and reform work. The women played a prominent role in the 2000, 2005 and 2010 parliamentary elections winning the admiration of one and all for the positive role in both running in the elections and heading to the polls to cast her vote.
During my campaigning in the 2010 parliamentary elections in Daqahleya's villages and districts I was able to sense the women's raised awareness and understanding.
FJPonline: What are your thoughts regarding the women's existent role in politics in general and Egypt in particular?
Al-Gamal: The women's current role in politics has some positive aspects while in other areas it remains negative. For instance her role during the revolution as she head to the squares calling for reform and proceeded to the ballots to cast her vote were inspiring. It is disappointing, however, to see that the women's chance to secure more seats was thwarted after she was placed at the end of the electoral lists lessening her chance to win, in order to comply with agreements made with the alliance. The media has also played a negative role focusing on old female faces most of which were affiliated with the ousted regime in one way or another.
FJPonline: On What criteria were you chosen as candidate?
Al-Gamal: To my knowledge I think the decision is based on several points resulting from careful evaluation and selection including:
Educational qualifications and skills possessed by the person, the level of interest and activity taken in society and the environment, the popularity of the person in the community, and the person's ethics and behavior.
I can humbly say that I fit the first criteria. Not only do I have a degree in teaching (English). I also earned a degree from the English Faculty of Arts, and am doing a diploma in Translation in order that I can fully master the English language in the political field.
To develop my skills further in the field of education, I earned several diplomas to help me with teaching methods in 1989, a diploma in education in 1990, and a Diploma in Mental Health in 1991.
I took several courses in Human Development in 2003 ISO, and a training course for trainers and worked as an instructor at the Faculty of Commerce in 2006 and practiced training there for a long time.
I also earned a Diploma in Islamic studies in 1995 and earned my Masters in Islamic Education.
FJPonline: Did the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) prepare you for this role?
Al-Gamal: Yes. All FJP candidates were primed for the role. The FJP is the MB's political arm and the MB is well equipped and experienced in community and political work. I joined the FJP when it was formed and was later chosen to be on the party's higher committee.
I took an intensive course becoming familiar with the party's agenda and its electoral program. I also participated regularly in the Political Committee sessions in Mansoura in 2010 in preparation. So, in short, I was prepared by both the MB and the FJP for my current role.
FJP online: How was the electoral experience in 2010?
In 2010 while I was campaigning and bidding for the women's quota I met with many men and women and was widely supported. However there was scandalous vote rigging in favour of all members of the dissolved NDP. In 2011, my popularity rose further as both men and women voted for the FJP.
FJPonline: How do you respond to allegations that women cannot represent men in parliament?
Women are part of the people; therefore, when she is elected by the people she is elected by men and women, young and old. Women represent the community, its aims and its demands. In parliament laws will be voted by all parliamentarians, men and women alike. Whosoever doubts the women's ability to perform in parliament questions the people's ability who chose this women to represent them. It also questions the ability of women to succeed in parliament. Egyptian women are not less efficient than their counterparts in the Muslim world and the West.
FJPonline: How many seats do you predict women will win in the next parliamentary elections?
Al-Gamal: I don’t think there will be a large number in parliament because of the electoral list system and the order in which women candidates are placed. Most of the seats won were from the Professional seats. An electoral seat which received 30-35% of the votes means that only three candidates on the list will secure seats in parliament while the women placed at the end of the list failed to acquire a seat, in turn there will not be real female representation in parliament.
FJPonline: What problems will you focus on solving in parliament?
Al-Gamal: There are many issues. Most importantly stability on the street. Food, poverty and unemployment affecting 48% of Egypt also need to be addressed.
I understand that the parliament's role is to monitor the performance of the government and hold it accountable. It is not an executive role. We plan to combat corruption in its entire means and will work conclusively, cooperating with all factions in order that Egypt safely reaches stability.