Political Empowerment of Egyptian Women… Challenges and Efforts
The issue of women’s political empowerment has received great attention at the local and international levels, especially in the last decade, and calls have increased for the need to reduce the gender gap, eliminate discrimination in all its forms, and push women towards decision-making and decision-making positions, based on the close relationship between the success of development programs for any country and between Empowering women and raising their capabilities, especially since they represent nearly half of society and have a great impact on the rest of society.
The world is currently depending on measuring the level of progress of any society and its interest in human development through two basic criteria, which are the political participation of women, and their empowerment in all fields after depriving them of exercising their political rights in the old decades and excluding them from participation in all fields.
In this context, the current political leadership of Egypt believes in the necessity of integrating women politically and pushing them towards promotion to higher government positions, in line with the democratic transformation that the country is witnessing, and in the interest of achieving comprehensive development.
Challenges facing women’s political empowerment
-Masculine culture: Egyptian women are still captive to a rigid culture that defines roles for men and women and deepens images of discrimination between them.
-Religious discourse: The collective awareness of Egyptians with regard to women’s issues and their political participation is affected by some interpretations and jurisprudential opinions that oppose their work and vary between absolute rejection and partial rejection.
-The high rate of illiteracy among women: The fact that women do not have access to education makes their opportunity to participate in political life very difficult, even impossible.
-The weakness of the role of civil society organizations in empowering women politically, as it is still far from supporting the political role of women, and raising community awareness of the effectiveness of their role in achieving the comprehensive development of society.
Efforts of the state to support woman political empowerment
1- Constitutional and legislative mechanisms:
A- Women in constitutional texts:
The 2014 constitution provided real opportunities to eliminate discrimination against women and stimulate their political participation, in a way not seen in previous Egyptian constitutions.
B- Laws supporting the political empowerment of women: Since 2014, the country has witnessed a legal momentum with regard to laws and decisions related to women, the most prominent of which are the following:
-Parliament Law No. 46 of 2014, which stipulates a number of seats for women in the list system (not less than 25% of the total number of seats).
-Law No. 45 of 2014 promulgating the Law Regulating Political Participation.
-Law No. 141 of 2020 of the Senate Law provides for the allocation of no less than 10% of seats for women, out of the total number of seats.
2- Decisions supporting the political empowerment of women:
Laws were issued to empower women in senior management positions, as follows:
– The Central Bank amended the governance rules to form the boards of directors of banks and to stipulate the presence of at least two women on the boards of directors of banks in 2021.
– The General Authority for Financial Supervision also issued Decision No. (48/2022) stipulating that no less than 25% or two women should be represented on the boards of directors of companies and non-bank financial entities.
3- Supporting strategies and programs:
A- The National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030:
The strategy is consistent with the 2014 Constitution, Egypt’s Vision 2030 and is integrated with its work axes that seek to build a just society characterized by equal rights and opportunities, and achieve the highest degrees of cohesion, solidarity and integration.
The vision of the Women’s Empowerment Strategy 2030 is based on the fact that by 2030 Egyptian women will become major actors in achieving sustainable development. Achieving this vision requires action through four axes: “political empowerment and strengthening women’s leadership roles, economic empowerment, social empowerment, and protection.”
With regard to the axis of political empowerment, the general objective is to stimulate women’s political participation in all its forms, including parliamentary representation at the national and local levels, and to prevent discrimination against women in assuming leadership positions in executive and judicial institutions, and to prepare women for success in positions.
The strategy identified a number of indicators to measure the impact of the political empowerment axis, including the percentage of females out of the total participants in the elections, and it was 44% in 2014. The strategy aims to reach 50% in 2030. Percentage of women’s representation in Parliament in 2016 was 15%, and the target in 2030 is to reach 35%. Percentage of female representation in local councils in 2014 was 25%, and the strategy aims in 2030 to reach 35%. Percentage of females in judicial bodies was 0.5% in 2015, and the target in 2030 is to reach 25%. Percentage of females in public positions was 5% in 2015, and the target is 17%. In 2030, Percentage of females in senior management positions was 19% in 2015, and the target in 2030 is to reach 27%.
The strategy identified a number of interventions to reach these percentages, as follows:
-Enhancing the role of women as voters: by completing the issuance of national identification cards for all women in all governorates.
-Increasing the representation of women in elected parliaments and enhancing their performance by identifying women leaders to train them to carry out the tasks of parliamentary representation, and developing programs to support women candidates for the House of Representatives in a way that helps them gain the confidence of voters.
– Enhancing opportunities for women to assume leadership positions in all judicial bodies and setting criteria for selecting candidates for judicial office that avoid discrimination against women and prioritize competence.
-Increasing women’s assumption of leadership positions in the executive agencies of the state through the development of integrated programs for young women leaders to prepare them to assume positions and train them to carry out their tasks.
B- The National Strategy for Human Rights (2021-2026): It was launched in 2021 and contains four axes, and it has a special section on “women’s rights.”
C- The “Women’s Executive Leadership” program to build the capacities of female government employees.
D- The “Women Leading the Future” program, which is a mentoring program for young women to develop their leadership and management skills and build their capacities.
4- Measures supporting women’s political empowerment
A- Expanding the number of community education schools, in which girls constituted the largest percentage of enrollment at 67.31%.
B- Establishing equal opportunity units at the level of government institutions and some private sector institutions, which aim to ensure a safe work environment that prevents discrimination, and to improve the conditions of Egyptian women in all fields.
c- The development of microfinance balances directed to women, as it contributed significantly to supporting women, and females accounted for 62% of the number of beneficiaries.
Recommendations to activate women’s participation in political work
The state is making efforts to achieve gender equality and empower women politically, but the process of political empowerment of women still needs to take more measures and decisions to overcome any obstacles:
– Working on reviewing and amending laws related to women’s rights, especially personal status, and those related to increasing the percentage of their representation in state institutions and enhancing their participation in assuming leadership positions in their societies.
-Developing a clear plan by the media in order to modify the stereotyped image of women, and to reveal the reality of their abilities that qualify them to participate in public and political life in particular.
-Increasing the financial support allocated to the process of qualifying and building the capacities of women cadres in all fields
– Empowering women in the economic field and increasing their participation in the production process is a necessity to enable them to participate in politics and occupy a prominent position in political decision-making.
– The necessity of providing accurate statistics and the necessary information on the volume of women’s political participation, and working on developing indicators that measure progress in women’s empowerment at the personal, societal and institutional levels.
– The need for political parties, trade unions and civil organizations to develop policies and mechanisms to ensure fair representation of women.