Egypt’s International Cooperation Ministry, NCW, WEF, private sector launch Closing Gender Gap Accelerator action plan

Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation launched on Thursday in cooperation with the National Council for Women (NCW), World Economic Forum (WEF) and the private sector launched on Thursday the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” action plan.

The step came in light of the Egyptian ministry’s continued efforts to close the gender gap and in celebration of the forthcoming International’s Women Day on March 8th.

Supporting gender parity is critical to ensuring strong, cohesive, and resilient societies with stakeholder capitalism as the guiding principle.

Egypt is the first country in Africa, Middle East, and North Africa to launch such a collaboration between the public and private sectors supported by the World Economic Forum.

The Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator aims to address current gender gaps and reshape gender parity for the future. The accelerator model drives systems change, highlighting the need for collaborative action across different scales – not just institutional structures and policies but also norms, attitudes and through individual business commitments, according to a ministry release.

From Purpose to Impact:

To catalyse closing the gender gap, the ministry launched the first multi-stakeholder platform in August 2020 bringing together all stakeholders including more than 80 representatives from multilateral and bilateral development partners. This was to ensure streamlined efforts and sustained commitment towards achieving SDG 5: Gender Equality are coordinated and upscaled.

Moving forward, within the accelerator platform’s governance structure is the design of the action plan prioritising actions according to key objectives and measuring impact as well as defined targets and metrics. The action plan is the result of multiple working sessions between the public and private co-chairs, supported by the World Economic Forum. The plan quantifies the commitments, outlining the mandates and roles across 10-points with desired outputs and key performance indicators.

“2021 is the year to build back a better, more inclusive world. Women are at the forefront of the sustainable development framework nationally and globally.” Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Rania A. Al-Mashat said.

“The accelerator has helped mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020, and its laid-out action plan will help counterbalance the widened gender gap in 2021,” Al-Mashat explained.

The action plan highlights the Egyptian government’s continued commitment to applying needed policies and reforms to push the gender agenda and help support women economic empowerment as female participation in the economy is macro-critical.

Setting up action coalitions between relevant public and private sector stakeholders are necessary to increase female glamour force participation and the number of women in leadership positions, as well as to close wage gaps and prepare women for jobs of the future.

Meanwhile, Maya Morsy, President of the National Council for Women, said: “We are aiming to achieve gender equality by providing women equal opportunities in the work and social spheres, in order to ensure women’s economic empowerment and inclusion,”

Morsy expressed her gratitude towards starting this journey of cooperation with the WEF, and in support of Minister Al-Mashat. She pointed out that the economic empowerment of women is a key focus in the NCW’s framework towards the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030; which was approved by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2017.

Economic support is at the heart of empowering women, Morsy added emphasising that gender equality and economic inclusion of women will lead to an increase in the country’s GDP.

Public – Private Action Coalition Plan:

The “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” action plan consists of 10 pillars, each includes several tasks and sub-actions for all stakeholders to implement, bringing their own expertise to the gender agenda plan.

The pillars cover a wide array of fields where development is necessary to ensure women’s inclusion; empowering work regulations, leadership mentorship and protocols, educational re-skilling and preparation, digitalisation of businesses, and social inclusion measures and policies.

“Egypt has made tremendous investments in its human capital foundation by expanding women’s higher education in recent years. The accelerator will support local efforts to unleash the full potential of women in the Egyptian economy” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director and Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society at the World Economic Forum.

The first pillar states that the representation of women on boards should be complemented with regular reporting on gender policies issued from the Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA). This will include conducting meetings by both the government and the private sector with relevant stakeholders to develop concrete recommendations in advancing the representation of women on boards.

In order to alleviate the challenges of balancing child care and work life, the government and private sector will also issue policy notes on childcare and elderly care services; aiming to encourage more private sector investment in both the aforementioned services while raising awareness on the important role women play at work and in childcare. This is the scope of work listed under the second pillar.

The third pillar looks into creating safe spaces and places for women to work. The government and private sector will issue a code of conduct and policy notes for businesses across different sectors and industries, showcase regulations against sexual harassment in the workplace and develop policy papers that show the impact COVID-19 had on the employment of women, the gender gap in jobs of the future, and income and economic opportunities. Having policy notes and recommendations shared with the private sector will enhance working conditions for women.

“The private sector has the opportunity and flexibility to play an integral role in bridging the gender gap. Together with all stakeholders we are committed to implementing the action points in the accelerators action plan to advance the economic empowerment of women” Karim El Chiaty, Vice Chairman of Travco Group, said.

The accelerator also aims to provide women with skills, experience, and scholarship opportunities by designing programmes that would allow them to enter technology-based fields, such as information technology; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and artificial intelligence (AI). Both the government and private sector in the fourth pillar work on equipping women in the digital sphere as it has been proven crucial during the pandemic.

“Women should be granted access to digital. We are here to support and help make this plan accessible and achievable in order to close the gender gap,” Gitanjali Chaturvedi, World Economic Forum, said.

The fifth pillar focuses on promoting company-to-company mentorship, and women’s leadership and mentorship programmes. This will encompass organising yearly events for female business owners and directors to meet and connect with other experts in their fields, building on existing governmental leadership programmes, and customising training programmes for women to be represented on boards of specific companies.

The sixth pillar aims to implement gender equality models and women empowerment principles. This entails expanding gender responsive policies and services to promote women’s inclusion in leadership positions, eliminate gender-based pay gaps, eradicate sexual harassment, and enhance work-life balance. The regulations shall be implemented across both the government’s and the private sector’s workplaces.

The action plan promotes financial inclusion through training and awareness programmes that enhance financial literacy and encourage women to open bank accounts through the seventh pillar.

Egypt also works on establishing a database of women working in the informal sector and providing them with ID cards, which will grant them access to variant economic opportunities.

Alongside the government’s efforts, the private sector will also play a leading role in raising awareness of the role of women in leadership in the eighth pillar, as the work of influential women will be highlighted and showcased as positive examples.

In the ninth pillar, the stakeholders shall work on enhancing their cooperation with the National Wages Council to close gender-based pay gap and achieve pay equity; as part of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), led by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), UN Women, and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The tenth pillar hammers on the use of networking and digital marketing to help women entrepreneurs and female-led startups have better access to local and global markets. This will help encourage the start-up community in Egypt as it is a leading entrepreneurial hub, and will increase local and global exposure for women business owners.

“Empowering women means empowering GDP.” Dalia Abdel Kader, Chief Sustainability Officer at Commercial International Bank (CIB Egypt), said.

The Ministry of International Cooperation’s 2020 Annual Report “International Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Writing the Future in a Changing Global Dynamic” indicates that 34 projects in Egypt worth $3.3 billion are being executed to achieve the targets of gender equality, with the top targeted sectors health (20 percent), micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) (15 percent), and education (14 percent).

According to the “Women, Business, and The Law 2021” World Bank report, Egypt scores an average 45 out of 100 for its WBL index, measuring the economic empowerment of women. The index consists of mobility, workplace, pay, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension. Egypt scored highest in pension with 100 points, followed by 75 in both entrepreneurship and workplace.

Egypt has made gender equality a priority, the Ministry of International Cooperation launched a dedicated micro-site on its official portal to Gender Equality “Empowering Women, Empowering Societies” – members of the international and local community can access information, insights and updates on the accelerator, development projects as well as policies being implemented to achieve SDG 5.  The portal also includes an interactive map of Egypt’s development projects mapped out according to SDG and location – where users can access in real time any project in accordance to its goal.

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