Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation and the National Council for Women (NCW) have hosted the first multi-stakeholder platform as part of the country’s “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” initiative.
The platform, which was held in the form of a webinar, saw the ministry and NCW join forces with the World Economic Forum. It represents the first of its kind in the Africa and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions.
The platform aims to bring together the international community to ensure sustained commitment specifically to Goal 5 on Gender Equality, of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The focus on international and development cooperation is to ensure that all efforts are up-scaled and coordinated to create real impact in the lives of women.
The virtual platform saw over 80 participants take part from the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), USAID and United Nations (UN) and its agencies. Representatives from several countries, including the Embassy of the UK, Canada, China, Korea, the USA, Germany and France, were among other participants.
Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat noted that the accelerator represents a public private collaboration platform helping governments and businesses take decisive actions on closing economic gender gaps. It is also designed to foster greater inclusion and engagement on the advancement of women.
“We want to achieve real impact in the economic participation of women in the economy, consistent with the objectives of the accelerator,” Al-Mashat said, “Though there are so many projects happening on the ground, the accelerator programme will act as an international benchmark to help ensure that all efforts are coordinated and up-scaled.”
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 prioritise actions according to key objectives; and measure impact according to defined targets and metrics before final approval.
A key element is to support the private sector in playing a prominent role in formulating initiatives that can help increase women inclusion in the sector, the minister added.
Initiate, Understand for Better Results
During the webinar, NCW President Maya Morsi presented an outline of the accelerator programme to the international community, to help engage all development partners. Morsi’s input was also to help partners better understand the shape of innovative pathways for growth towards gender parity.
The presentation included an overview of policy reports and the tracker that was issued, in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), on women-related policies and programmes taken by Egypt’s government.
The tracker, set up to ensure the needs of women were met during the pandemic, helps policy makers moving forward, whilst documenting coordinated government efforts and reflecting on these policies.
Morsi highlighted that the accelerator is a full-fledged programme which includes legislation and culture as cross-cutting pillars. It also takes into consideration social empowerment, protection, and political empowerment.
”While economic empowerment is considered to be the main pillar, creating a safe environment in the world of work for women is vital to help achieve this,” she said.
Egypt is the first country to provide a women-specific response and tracker on the back of the coronavirus outbreak. Representatives from the World Economic Forum emphasised that Egypt has provided a unique example, set up within a “knowledge network”.
People at the core, Projects in action, and Purpose as the driver
During the meeting, Al-Mashat showcased a number of projects that Egypt has undertaken as part of its progress in achieving gender equality. These projects, which have been catalysts for change, constitute an overlapping theme in 34 projects worth $3.3bn.
The sectors most targed through these projects are health, education and micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), constituting 20%, 14%, and 15%, respectively, of gender sensitive projects. They both represent direct investments in building human capital, where women are amongst the main beneficiaries.
All projects are implemented through a people-centred development approach, that fosters collaboration with all stakeholders to push forward the political, economic and social empowerment of women.
Uniting for progress on ‘Gender Parity’
Cristina Albertin, the UN’s Resident Coordinator in Egypt, congratulated both the Ministry of International Cooperation and the NCW for the comprehensive briefing provided on the Gender Gap Accelerator.
Albertin noted that the accelerator enhances existing national frameworks and leverages the impact of the Women’s Results Group under the UN Partnership Development Framework (UNPDF).
The UN in Egypt is fully committed to support the Ministry of International Cooperation and the NCW in the accelerator’s rollout across the Middle East and North Africa.
“Egyptian Women represent 50% of the population, and removing legal and social barriers, through partnerships under the accelerator, will have a direct impact on women’s active participation in the economy and hence growth and poverty reduction in Egypt,” said Robert Bou Jaoude, World Bank Operations Manager for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.
Beatrice Maser, MENA Regional Director at the International Finance Cooperation (IFC), stated that many programmes undertaken in partnership with the Ministry of International Cooperation seek to improve women’s economic empowerment in collaboration with the private sector.
The IFC recently launched a new advisory programme to improve women’s employment opportunities in Egypt by highlighting how private sector companies can tap into the country’s large female talent tool to spur economic growth.
Maser said, “Creating economic opportunities for women in Egypt is a strategic priority for IFC, we look forward to future projects under the accelerator that support inclusiveness in the workforce.”