More than a century after the first public university opened its doors to both sexes in this conservative Muslim country, Egypt named its first female university president last week.
Hend Hanafi was appointed by President Hosni Mubarak as head of Alexandria University.
Hanafi was previously the vice-president for postgraduate studies and research at the same university. ‘I will pay particular attention to the promotion of medical education, scientific research and cooperation with European universities,” said an elated Hanafi on her appointment.
The 57- year-old paediatrician also pledged to develop education in different colleges of the state-run Alexandria University. ‘My selection to be the president of this prestigious university shows that Egyptian women are establishing themselves firmly in all fields.
The political leadership in Egypt is endeavouring for the empowerment of women as reflected in recent steps taken to utilise women’s potential,” she said. In 2007, Egypt appointed its first female judges. Years earlier, it created the National Council for Women, a government agency headed by the first lady, Suzanne Mubarak.
Egypt was the first Arab country to have female ambassadors, government ministers and MPs. The Egyptian Parliament is debating a Bill to allocate seats for women in both houses.
Hanafi’s appointment was praised by the National Council for Women. ‘President Mubarak’s decision is a practical embodiment of his belief in the capabilities and efficiency of Egyptian women,” said Furkhanada Hassan, the council’s chairperson.
Under Egyptian law, the head of the state has the power to appoint presidents of public universities. Hanafi, a member of several children’s welfare associations, was the deputy dean of the Alexandria University Medical School from 2003 until September 2006.
She became a paediatrics professor at the same medical school in January 1995. There are five female deans at Alexandria University –University World News