Arab despots and dictators see the legitimate demands of their people for justice, human rights and freedom as a challenge to their manliness. It has inhibited them from responding intelligently and flexibly. A society with a culture that excludes women from politics, and admires a "fearless" leader, who is ruthless and unable to tolerate dissent, is a poor one with ruinous consequences for its people.
Stubbornness and domination have become characteristics to be admired in the male with varying degrees in the entire Arab world. Girls are encouraged to defer to their brothers, and taught to hide their intelligence and good sense in discussions with their male counterparts. Males are burdened from an early age to assume the mantle of family leadership, and encouraged to see themselves as protector of the family against all external threats. This macho tradition is transferred to the politics of an Arab world that largely excludes women, and has produced an unhealthy imbalance between the sexes that has been to the detriment of everyone in society.
Highly educated women such as doctors, teachers, philosophers and authors, are discouraged, with doors firmly shut in their faces, from entering the 'man's' world of politics. The internet and social communication websites such as Facebook and Twitter have made inroads into such a culture, and have given women the confidence to say, "You know what, we can do better than you men in the running and governance of the country".
The strengths women have, which western societies have come to appreciate, in communication, negotiation, and compromise, have been absent in Arab political life. The Arab Awakening, with its strong participation of women, is changing the political atmosphere and will have a profound healthy influence for the better in the future.
The British Guardian newspaper (23 April 2011) in an article entitled: "Women sustained the uprising. But what can they expect in return?", charts the important role of women in the Arab Awakening. However, it quotes a number of women who are concerned that they may be sidelined when it comes to leadership political roles post-revolution: "Egyptian women express concern that when the dust settles on their revolution and a new parliament is elected in November, there may be just as few female MPs as there were in the Mubarak era". The paper then quotes Rebecca Chiao, founder of a women's rights group called Harassmap saying: "there was already a backlash against gender equality", adding: "There's a propaganda campaign against us, saying now is not the time for women's rights". An Egyptian woman protestor is quoted as saying: "Now Mubarak has gone, they want me to go home".
This response from male revolutionaries is short sighted. Excluding women from leading political roles carries within it the seeds that have led to despotic rulers that have blighted the lives of people in the Arab world.
The Guardian also details the recommendation by the Tunisian electoral commission that there must be "50% parity between men and women in electoral lists - and not just women on the bottom rung: they must alternate with male candidates from the top of each party selection and share the most important roles."
Leila Hamrouni, a candidate for the Tunisian Ettajdid (renewal) party said : "We have got to really fight for the 50% equality in the elections. I am worried it won't be properly enforced. The smaller parties say it's great in principle but in practice there aren't enough "competent' women."
I am amazed at the effrontery of men in politics in the Arab world daring to talk about competence. The incompetence of male political leaders and rulers in the Arab world is legendary. They should now have the humility to say "we have done a very bad job", and beg women to join these groupings and parties to learn from them many of the skills they lack, which women have in abundance.
Women of the revolution do not allow yourselves to be sidelined. Fight for your rights with the tenacity and intelligence you used against dictators; your countries need you, and you owe it to your children and grandchildren to provide them with a better future using your unique skills.