Wafdist Women's Central Committee

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Egyptian women's committee of the early Wafd party.

Early in the twentieth century Egypt took steps toward forming a wafd, or delegation, to demand independence from British rule. In 1910 the National Party (al-Hizb al-Watani) held a congress in Brussels, where Inshirah Shawqi's appeal for independence was read by a man because Egyptian gender conventions prevented her from speaking publicly. Later, Indian nationalist Bhikaji Cama confronted the Wafdist men on the issue of women's participation in the Egyptian nationalist movement. Women's participation in Egyptian civil society became a mobilizing component of the fight for independence, a struggle in which women played a key role.

As women began to enter the Egyptian public sphere, so too did they begin to enter the realm of politics. Wafd members' wives and other women took up the national cause and established the Wafdist Women's Central Committee (Lajnat al-Wafd alMarkaziyya lil-Sayyidat, WWCC) on 12 January 1920 in a meeting at St. Mark's Cathedral. When Wafd leader Saʿd Zaghlul was deported to the Seychelles in 1921, the WWCC continued to work for the nationalist cause in his absence. They coordinated embargoes against British goods and managed the financial side of the nationalist movement. Huda al-Shaʿrawi was elected president of the committee, and other founding members included Ulfat Ratib, Regina Habib Khayyat, Wissa Wasif, Ahmad Abu Usba, Sharifa Riyad, Ester Fahmi Wissa, Louise Majorelle Wasif Ghali, Ihsan al-Qusi, and Fikriyya Husni. Most came from large land-owning families, although some were middle-class Cairenes. The WWCC solidified links between various women's associations in Cairo in the nationalist cause, such as the New Women Society ( Jamʿiyat alMarʾa al-Jadida, founded by Shaʿrawi in 1919), the Society of the Renaissance of the Egyptian Woman ( Jamʿiyyat Nahdat al-Sayyidat al-Misriyyat), and the Society of Mothers of the Future ( Jamʿiyyat Ummuhat al-Mustaqbal). In addition, women from the WWCC helped to found women's organizations outside Cairo in Minya, Asyut, and Tanta.

Before the WWCC was a year old, members were bitterly disappointed when Saʿd Zaghlul and other Wafdist men did not consult them on a proposal for independence. They published a critique of the Wafdist men's actions and eventually founded the Egyptian Feminist Union (al-Ittihad al-Nisaʾi alMisri). When Shaʿrawi left, other Wafdist women renamed their group the Committee of Saʿdist Women (al-Lajna al-Saʿdiyya lil-Sayyidat) and remained loyal to Zaghlul. Shaʿrawi and other women went on to dedicate their efforts to the feminist movement while the Wafd Party's role of serving as a vehicle for women's concerns diminished.

see alsoegypt; egyptian feminist union; gender: gender and law; gender: gender and politics; shaʿrawi, huda al-; wafd; zaghlul, saʿd.


Badran, Margo. Feminists, Islam, and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Sharawi, Huda. Harem Years: Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, edited and translated by Margo Badran. London: Virago Press, 1986.

maria f. curtis