On 8 March, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, highlighting the theme “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”.
To mark this important day, Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW),the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), the European Union (EU),the Embassy of the Netherlands, and UN Women in Egypt have joined forces.
They have done so to celebrate the tremendous efforts of women and girls in shaping a more equal future and full recovery from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In the framework of a longstanding partnership, the partners launched a new project entitled ‘Women’s Empowerment and Financial and Economic Inclusion in Rural Egypt: COVID-19 Response’.
The newly launched project, co-led by NCW and the CBE, implemented with the support of UN Women Egypt and co-funded by the EU and the Netherlands, tackles obstacles to women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment.
It does so by investing in the scale up and digitalization of a successful initiative, known as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) for women. The project targets over 120,000 women in the governorates of Minya, Beni Suef, Assiut, and Sohag.
It aims to expand the scale, sustainability, and impact of VSLAs through leveraging technology of different e-payment methods, thereby enhancing women’s access to financial services.
In addition, the project will support small-scale women-led enterprises in rural areas. Rural women’s digital and financial literacy will also be increased through training.
Maya Morsy, President of the NCW, said, “Women’s economic empowerment is one of Egypt’s top national priorities, in line with the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030, which is backed by a genuine political will of the government which sincerely believes that empowering women means empowering the whole community.”
“The Egyptian Constitution of 2014 established the foundations for non-discrimination and equal opportunities principles, and we also now witness a number of legislative reforms to support women’s economic empowerment,” she also said, “Additionally, financial inclusion is at the forefront of the government’s priorities, being considered an essential mean for women’s economic empowerment.”
Morsy added that, through the cooperation with partners, Egypt aims with this project to continue the government’s efforts and take vigorous steps towards overcoming the obstacles that hinder women’s economic empowerment.
At the same time, it looks to improve their status and living conditions, as well as ensuring their protection, which all in turn support Egypt’s development and prosperity.
Han-Maurits Schaapveld, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Egypt, said, “A lack of affordable, accessible and quality financing holds women entrepreneurs back and limits their growth.
He added, “Under these circumstances, the majority of women entrepreneurs are confined to operating micro-businesses in the informal sector with limited growth potential.”
Schaapveld also said that investing in women entrepreneurs means investing in development and growth.
“Together with our long-standing partners in Egypt, we aim with this program to support access to finance for women in Egypt”, Schaapveld said, “Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is an essential goal in all components of the Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation policy, and increasing economic empowerment and improve the economic climate for women is paramount to achieve this.”
In addition to enhancing women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment, with funding from the EU, the project will contribute to increasing awareness and providing protection and response services to women and girls who experience or are at risk of violence.
This will be achieved through strengthening the capacity of the NCW’s Women’s Complaints Office to fulfil its objectives. It will also engage with other local stakeholders to provide protection and response services for women.
In addition, the NCW will lead advocacy and awareness raising campaigns against violence against women, especially within the COVID-19 context.
“Violence against women has been called the shadow pandemic, and it continues to be one of the most significant challenges for women to overcome worldwide, including in Egypt,” said Christine Arab, UN Women Representative in Egypt, “As Egypt moves from pandemic response to recovery, with the longer-term goal to ‘build back better’, it will be critical to keep women at the centre of all efforts.”
Arab also said it is hoped that through the programmes and partnerships being put in place will expand women’s economic independence and ability to earn a living. They will also cement women’s roles as the builders and innovators of tomorrow. For this vision to be realised, it is essential that the scourge of violence against women and girls be eradicated once and for all, she added.