Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat has said that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has not impacted the country’s efforts in achieving gender equality.
In a ministry statement on Tuesday, the minister also said that the pace of adopting policies supporting the empowerment of women was accelerated through 21 measures during the pandemic.
This gave Egypt a leading position in terms of policies supporting women during the pandemic in the Middle East and West Asia region, according to a report by the United Nations (UN) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Minister Al-Mashat’s remarks came during her speech at the “Gender Equality and Recovery Policies” session, held as part of the activities of the 2021 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. This year, the event was held virtually, due to the ongoing crisis regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister took part in the meeting, along with Phumzil Mlambo Ngoka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women.
Kevin Snyder, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, and Michael Niedorff, Chairperson and CEO of Centene Corporation, also participated in the session, which was moderated by Mina Al-Araibi, editor-in-chief of The National newspaper.
Minister Al-Mashat stated that the coronavirus pandemic proved that no country, institution or individual can face the economic and environmental challenges of COVID-19 alone.
The minister said that taking into account women’s empowerment policies, while responding to the pandemic and promoting recovery, is crucial to promoting equality and advancing development efforts.
She also said that the changes taking place in worldwide labour markets due to the pandemic represent a distinct opportunity to integrate the concept of equal opportunities between the genders. This will take place in a way that enhances women’s empowerment and their presence in the future.
Minister Al-Mashat added that this comes through achieving a balance between the demand side for jobs and the required skills, and the supply side in terms of skills and job potentials enjoyed by women.
She emphasised that women across the world have demonstrated great flexibility and ability during the global health crisis. As part of this, they have embarked on domestic obligations alongside their other roles at work, which reflects the vital role women play in society.
During her speech, the Minister touched on the launch of “Bridging the Gender Gap Catalyst” in July 2020. The initiative was set up as a collaboration between the Ministry of International Cooperation and Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW), in partnership with the World Economic Forum.
The initiative is also the first of its kind in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, and is a model of cooperation between the government and private sectors.
Minister Al-Mashat said that this stimulus was launched to take proactive measures to enhance women’s economic empowerment. It will create innovative policies to promote gender equality, diversity, inclusion, and economic mobility, through a three-year action plan, which is fundamental to Egypt’s reform agenda.
She noted that the catalyst for bridging the gender gap will reach up to 100 private sector companies in various economic sectors. This is in addition to civil society experts, who aim to adopt policies and plans to enhance the economic empowerment of women in various fields and at all levels.
The Ministry of International Cooperation launched its annual report for the year 2020, under the title “International partnerships for achieving sustainable development – Shaping the future in a changing world”. The report included a chapter devoted to women’s empowerment.
It revealed that the number of projects implemented within the ministry’s current portfolio amount to 34 projects that achieve equal opportunities between the genders. These are taking place through main or sub-goals, with the projects worth a combined value of $3.3bn.
The portfolio includes projects aimed at achieving the fifth goal of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which focuses on gender equality. Projects as part of this have received $82m in funding.