Egyptian women had the unique opportunity to take part in the annual Women’s Economic Forum (WEF) late last week, the first time the forum was held outside India since it began in 2015.
More than 75 countries participated in the two-day forum which was organised by the National Council for Women (NCW) in cooperation with The Worx, an events consultancy. It brought together 700 female leaders from Egypt and the rest of the world to discuss employment, international trade, and women in technology and finance.
Throughout the sessions and workshops, women shared stories of how they started their careers, what challenges they faced and how they overcame them. WEF is important for promoting women’s economic empowerment, said Maya Morsi, president of NCW while addressing the audience. She said it was a unique opportunity for women entrepreneurs from different parts of the world to meet in one place and discuss means of cooperation and available prospects.
Believing that “women are capable of changing the world for the best,” Indian entrepreneur Harbeen Arora, the founder of WEF, announced during the forum several new initiatives aimed at empowering women. She said the first economic digital portal of its kind will be launched after one year and will be dedicated to business leaders to display and exchange products and information around the world under the name “She Economy”.
Arora also offered 100 fully-paid scholarships at the Indian Rai University to 100 Egyptian women. “I wish for Egyptian and Indian women to continue communicating between each other to empower women of both countries,” she said.
Egypt’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Said talked of the important role that women play in economic activity, and the need to empower them economically. “Studies indicate an increase in women’s participation in the labor market... Eliminating economic inequality between men and women can contribute to increasing global GDP by $12-$28 trillion by 2025,” Al-Said said.
Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Affairs Abroad Nabila Makram pointed out the political leadership’s support for Egyptian women. There are eight female ministers in the Egyptian government. In addition, Makram said women enjoy “good representation” in parliament. Women make up 25 per cent of Egypt’s government and the representation of women in parliament increased in recent constitutional amendments from 15 per cent to 25 per cent.
“Political leadership has great confidence in women’s abilities in making a difference and becoming key partners in developing and enhancing modern Egypt,” Makram said.
Mohamed Omran, president of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, spoke about the authority’s role in empowering women economically by requiring companies listed on the stock exchange to have at least one woman on their board of directors.
Omran pointed to the higher efficiency of companies whose boards of directors comprise women. “The global GDP will increase by 35 per cent if women are empowered economically. Women in Egypt represent 70 per cent of the field of micro-enterprise financing and their default rates are much lower than for men,” Omran said.
Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat spoke at a session on reformulating policies in the fourth industrial revolution, stressing that although technology and the use of artificial intelligence will lead to the loss of 33 million jobs worldwide, it will create 133 million other job opportunities.
“Women are among the first category to lose their jobs, so it is necessary to qualify women through training and equipping them with knowledge to be part of the fourth industrial revolution to take advantage of the digital transformation and technological development,” Al-Mashat said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 March, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly