One of the major health concerns in Egypt for women today is the lack of access to birth control. As the world is marking the 29th anniversary of the Population Day, an Egyptian public health professor at Cairo University stressed that 2 million Egyptian women, mostly in Upper Egypt, have no access to contraceptives (Mena). As fertility rates start to soar in Egypt, access to affordable birth control is becoming more and more crucial. Maisa Shawki, former deputy health minister, said family planning services should be made widely available through providing contraceptives and raising awareness of both men and women about the importance of reproductive health (Mena). Overpopulation and limited resources are among the biggest challenges facing development in Egypt, she added. However, she cited some improvement in population indicators after the start of the application of the 2015/2030 National Population Strategy (Mena). Just as important as over population in Egypt, is providing choice and the feeling of autonomy to women. When women have choice when it comes to their reproduction they have more opportunities to pursue higher education and a career. When women are empowered through education and ability to have a career beyond the home, the fertility rate usually stabilizes.
There are few signs of women’s health improving in Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, with some observers fearing a worsening of rights and attitudes (Sharmila). More than 99% of hundreds of women surveyed in Egypt reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment, ranging from minor harassment to rape, said a recent UN report (Sharmila). Clearly, women’s health extends beyond just access to birth control in Egypt. Part of women’s health issues in Egypt is the inability for women to feel safe. As we learned in the lectures this week, post traumatic stress syndrome can cause prolonged health issues for women that can even effect the birth weight of their babies. Many negative health consequences to the victims have been associated with domestic violence against women. Data from the 1995 Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey, a nationally representative household survey, were analyzed for 6566 currently married women age 15–49 who responded to both the main questionnaire and a special module on women’s status (Diop-Sidibé). The study examined the association of ever-beating, beating in past year or frequency of beatings in past year with contraceptive use, pregnancy management, and report of health problems. Thirty-four percent of women in the sample were ever beaten by their current husband while sixteen percent were beaten in the past year (Diop-Sidibé). This trauma has ripple effects on other aspects of women’s health. Higher frequency of beating was associated with non-use of a female contraceptive method, while ante-natal care by a health professional for the most recent baby born in the past year was less likely among ever-beaten women (Diop-Sidibé). This type of violence is programed to be the norm in girl’s minds from a young age. Physical violence against young girls is difficult to document and study because it goes unreported even when it does result in injury because disciplining young id perceived as familial prerogative and duty (Ammar). This prolonged violence against women has repercussions that stretch beyond just the instance of abuse.
(1) Mena. 2 million Egyptian women have no access to contraceptives: Officials. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/53760/2-million-Egyptian-women-have-no-access-to-contraceptives-officials
(2) Sharmila, D. (2013, May 18). Women’s health challenges in post-revolutionary Egypt. Retrieved from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)61060-0/fulltext
(3) Diop-Sidibé, N. Domestic violence against women in Egypt-wife beating and health outcomes. (2005, August 31). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953605003953
(4) Ammar, Nawal. In the Shadow of the Pyramids: Domestic Violence In Egypt. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/026975800000700303