The UfM Ministerial Conclusions on strengthening the role of women in society:
Priorities and Mechanisms in Egypt
22 – 23 May 2016, Cairo
The national roundtable in Egypt to follow up on the implementation of the UfM Ministerial Conclusions Paris 2013 on strengthening the role of women in society took place on 22 -23 May 2016 in Cairo. It was organized by the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement EACPE and Euromed Feminist Initiative IFE-EFI and funded by the European Union in the frame of the contract “Gender Regional Platform”, which aims to provide space for a policy dialogue at national and regional level and exchange of best practices with existing networks of stakeholders in the Southern Neighbourhood.
The purpose of the two days deliberations was to favour a national dialogue in Egypt between the civil society, political decision makers and State officials on the development and implementation of gender equality and women’s rights policy in the light of the Conclusions from the 3rd UfM Ministerial Conference (Paris in 2013) and to discuss national priorities and mechanisms for their implementation in Egypt. The roundtable also elaborated recommendations and national priorities before the upcoming 4th UfM Ministerial Conference in February 2017.
On the 22nd May 25 representatives from major women’s rights CSOs from Cairo and from six governorates in Egypt met to discuss the priorities for the women’s rights organizations and mechanisms to improve the status of women’s rights and gender equality in Egypt.
On the 23rd May the national roundtable gathered 35 representatives from women’s rights CSOs and CBOs, representatives from ministries and institutions, MPs and political leaders as well as the Arab League to present and discuss the agreed priories from the national meeting of the CSOs.
The participants discussed several topics concerning the status of women’s rights deemed to be important for Egypt:
- Women's political participation and their participation in decision making positions: the need to support women in politics and to encourage feminist politics.
- Women's economic participation: the need to carve policies that enable women’s economic independence.
- Gender based discrimination and the need to work towards its elimination in all spheres by:
- Common work on redressing discriminatory legislation;
- Common work on bridging the gap between de jure and de facto equality.
This work includes making the following legislative changes:
- Reforming family law;
- Issuing a local councils law that ensures participation of women through proper election law;
- Reforming the law governing professional syndicates and workers’ union;
- Issuing a new law establishing the Commission for Equal Opportunity and Elimination of Discrimination.
- The need to establish a mechanism for reviewing all national policies to make sure that gender is being mainstreamed and no gender discrimination results from implementing these policies.
- National strategy for combating gender based violence and the need to establish a mechanism for its implementation.
- Education: the need to invest in making education gender sensitive and reforming culture abusive of women’s rights.
- The need to ensure freedoms in private and public spheres and including the right of organization and assembly and the need for discussing a new NGO law with civil society
Reaffirming the importance of all these issues and the need of persistent work and comprehensive approach by civil society, decision makers and State actors, the participants agreed on three priorities for the coming period:
- Exercising pressure to pass the law on establishing a National Commission for Equal Opportunities according to the Constitution of 2014 with the participation of civil society in the preparation of the law, together with government and parliament.
- Combating all forms of violence against women and girls.
- Enabling the civil society to work freely and ensuring that freedoms in both private and public spheres are protected and practiced as stated in the Constitution. A new law governing the work of NGOs prepared by government should be discussed with NGOs.
- III. CHALLENGES TO PARTICIPATION:
Participants stressed that there are multiple challenges to women's participation, of which most urgent to address are:
A) Legal challenges:
- The wide gap between the 2014 Constitution and the various laws concerning women's rights and gender equality – as discussed above.
B) Economic, social and culture challenges that include:
- High rates of poverty in the Egyptian society, especially among women.
- The inherited social and patriarchal system based on customs, traditions and culture of women’s discrimination.
- The reproduction of traditional gender stereotypical roles of women and men.
- The division between private and public with the multiple roles women play inside and outside the home, hindering their opportunity to participate in public life.
- High rates of illiteracy in the Egyptian society, especially among women.
It was unanimously agreed that the governmental machineries should work together with the women’s rights CSOs in order to improve the situation of women’s rights and gender equality. Several recommendations were issues:
- The Equal Opportunity Units in the different ministries should be strengthened, and provided with financial means. This is a condition for proper gender mainstreaming to take place.
- While the women’s CSOs should work together with women at grass root level in order to articulate and present their demands, the National Council of Women should work more closely with the CSOs to learn about women's problems, aspirations and activities and to present their demands to the government. The National Council should make sure that government policies are taking gender equality issues into consideration.
- The National Council of Women should cooperate with and include CSOs in the implementation of the national strategy of combating violence against women.
- The National Council and CSOs should advocate together for the establishment of Gender Equality Committee in the Parliament.
- CSOs working on empowerment of women should work together and form a pressure group.
- A joint cross sector government-civil society committee should be established to monitor the implementation if the UfM Ministerial Conclusions and the recommendations from the regional and national dialogues.