Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women, Policy Advocates
For Mozn Hassan, a sense of alienation was a natural part of the landscape growing up Egyptian in Saudi Arabia. The imported labor force was a mix of nationalities, and groups tended to stay with their own. Feelings of isolation linger today, as Mozn works to advance women’s rights and leadership in Egypt.
This “otherness” intensified for Mozn when the family moved back to Alexandria, Egypt, in the 1990s. Her parents returned to comfortable lives in academia and politics. Home was a welcoming place for debate and discussion. But all around her, Mozn saw a different reality for the rest of Egyptian society, especially for women.
“We were always talking about equality in my family,” notes Mozn. “When I was young, my father bought me a book — a diary of one of the most important feminists. He gave it to me and said, ‘Read this to know that there are other Egyptian women who are thinking like you.’”
Class disparities and gender discrimination witnessed as a foreigner in the Gulf later helped define Mozn’s political consciousness at university. There, amid the swirl of new ideas and nascent activism, Mozn’s lifelong passion for women’s rights was ignited.
While earning multiple diplomas and a master’s degree in civil society and international human rights law, Mozn nurtured a young feminist movement, advocating for women’s political participation and democratization. This laid the groundwork for the Nazra Institute for Feminist Studies in Cairo, Egypt, where she is currently founding director.
During Egypt’s popular revolution that began on January 25, 2011, Mozn remained in Tahrir Square day and night to call for freedom and democracy for all Egyptians.
The end of the Mubarak regime on February 11 marked a new beginning for her work. Presidential and parliamentary elections are likely to be held in September 2011, and women’s organizations are working to ensure comprehensive constitutional reforms with a strong gender agenda. They are building a movement and demanding a place at the table to monitor how the constitution-drafting process supports all Egyptians.
“We at Nazra are mentoring and preparing more than 10 women to run for the election,” explains Mozn. “This is part of social mobilization — even if they lose. We are building a foundation, and this will help future women candidates.”
Vital Voices identified Mozn for a new program piloted just after the January 25th revolution, called Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the MENA Region. With the goal of affecting policy, procedural and legislative outcomes, the Policy Advocates program works with cross-sector teams of women from 11 countries to plan, fund and implement advocacy campaigns for issues affecting women in their home communities.
“International NGOs and advocacy are important — without it, we could be misinterpreted and stereotyped. Funding is not all we need,” says Mozn. “We want to work with real partners. We are entering a transitional phase and networking is so important.”
In May 2011, as part of Vital Voices’ Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women, Mozn was invited along with 10 global human rights leaders to a two-week International NGO Mentoring Program, in Washington, D.C., New York and Arizona. Among the highlights were peer-to-peer exchange, site visits with local NGOs, and meetings with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and senior government officials at the State Department’s Offices on Global Women’s Issues and on Monitoring & Combating Trafficking in Persons.