H.E. Dr. Rania A. Al-Mashat
Gender equality is a necessity for any country to realize its full economic potential. Enabling women to achieve social, economic and political equality strengthens social fabric and accelerates progress in achieving developmental objectives. It matters because it has a fundamental bearing on whether or not economies and societies thrive. The emergence of female leaders can become a centrifugal force for good in the world. For the first time, we’re seeing examples of female leaders emerging from across the generations to cross-weave their knowledge and drive for change. In Egypt’s case, women are playing a larger role; more so every day. For the first time in history, 25% of the Egyptian Parliament seats are allocated to women, with 8 crucial ministries led by women in the Egyptian cabinet. Such a number of women in leading positions and with influential powers can encourage and inspire young ladies to achieve their potential, and push through the social barriers. We are dismantling the gender roles stigmas, one strong woman at a time. There is political will, there is economic empowerment when it comes to access to finance, and there is social empowerment where we are changing societal ideas of the participation of women.
Achieving gender equality cannot happen without strong partnerships. To achieve gender equality at a large scale, our goals must be streamlined, local, inclusive and also specific, so that all targets are met in a harmonious manner.This year, Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation has been keen on integrating a gender perspective in all of its projects. We work in close collaboration with our multilateral and bilateral development partners, civil society organizations, the private sector and policy makers to achieve impact.
We look at women’s participation through a ‘macro-critical’ lens and recognize that it is critical to the achievement of macroeconomic stability.
Around 34 projects, worth $3.3 billion, are being executed to achieve the targets of gender equality, with the top targeted sectors including Health (20%), Education (14%), and Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) (15%). The Ministry of International Cooperation’s current portfolio of projects that exclusively target SDG 5 include 13 projects amounting to $82 million. This is in addition to the other projects in the portfolio that achieve the same goal as a collateral effect to their development.
In July 2020, the Ministry of International Cooperation, the National Council for Women (NCW), and the World Economic Forum (WEF), launched the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator”, which is the first of its kind public-private collaboration model in Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. It aims to help governments and businesses take decisive action to close economic gender gaps. To increase women’s participation in the labour force, the accelerator helped bring together 100 companies pledging to push our agenda forward, and take proactive action to advance women’s economic empowerment.
To ensure better results, the accelerator has created a structure for all stakeholders to engage in three stages. This will see stakeholders: initiate projects; facilitate discussions to prioritize actions according to key objectives; and measure impact according to defined targets and metrics before approval. The launch of accelerator highlights Egypt’s continued commitment to applying needed policies and structural reforms to empower Egyptian women, as women’s participation in the economy is macro-critical. It is also a means to bring together multi-stakeholder actors across the public and private sectors to generate local insight, develop local needs-based action plans and drive their execution.
Through the ‘Basic Education Program’, USAID provided a total financing of USD 588M to support the Education Reform Program in Egypt. This project focuses on (1) expanding access to quality early childhood education; (2) encouraging female participation in STEM schools, (3) improving student assessment systems; (4) increasing the quality of instruction through professional development activities for educators and administrators; and (5) incorporating technology in the classroom to include more digital resources and improved classroom data collection.
To counter gender stereotypes in school curriculums, the ‘Supporting Egypt Education Reform’, which is supported by the World Bank through a USD 500M financing agreement, integrates gender sensitivity into the design of its framework to address gender gaps and stereotypes in education (attendance, dropouts, and enrollment in science and mathematics tracks), as well as the constraints that face girls, the role of mothers in education, and gender-based violence or sexual harassment in schools.
Needless to say, the pandemic, a global humanitarian challenge derailed the progress to achieving the sustainable development goals but was also an initiator to “The Great Reset”, as championed by the World Economic Forum. One of the silver linings of COVID-19, is that it has accelerated reforms, including closing the gender gap, to be able to build back better through inclusivity and nurturing diversity. Egypt was the first country to provide a women-specific response during COVID-19 launched by the National Council For Women. The country scored 1st place in the Middle East and West Asia regions with 21 policy measures according to the UNDP COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker.
In partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and El Nidaa Foundation, Kemama engages Egyptian women from Upper Egypt to produce medical face masks, which a shift from their previous ready-made garment production. All while providing jobs for women during these trying times, Kemama managed to produce over 3,000 masks daily.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women include cross-cutting themes, covering several SDGs such as Goal 1 for No Poverty, Goal 2 for End Hunger, Goal 3 for Good Health and Wellbeing, Goal 10 for Reduced Inequalities and Goal 16 for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs.
Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
Increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills.
End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.
Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.
Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.
Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality.
Enhance the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources, to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in all countries, in particular developing countries.