The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) recently commended the National Council for Women (NCW) for its efforts to ensure that a gender perspective is adopted in Egypt’s coronavirus response plan.
The NCW established the women’s policy tracker on responsive policies and programmes during the Covid-19 pandemic to monitor policies and procedures responsive to the needs of Egyptian women in light of the efforts made to reduce the spread of the virus.
UN Women issued a press release expressing its appreciation of the Egyptian government as well as the NCW’s efforts to ensure that the Covid-19 response was effective for everyone, including women and girls.
Notably, the government’s stimulus package provides more incentives for sectors that have high female labour force participation, such as tourism and agriculture; increases payments to women community leaders in rural areas; and increases the number of households in the Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) social protection programmes with an additional 100,000 households.
Over 80 per cent of recipients of the Takaful programme are women, and includes clients of the microfinance sector in the Central Bank of Egypt which decided to delay loan instalments. Women constitute over 70 per cent of microfinance clients.
UN Women said it appreciated the gender-sensitive approach taken by the government of Egypt in its response to the coronavirus and will continue to support national efforts to carry out additional measures in line with its responsibilities, which include advancing women’s rights during such difficult times.
The government has taken several measures to contain the effects of Covid-19 on the economy. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, during a meeting held on 22 March marking Egyptian Women’s Day, issued a set of economic and social protection decrees to support and protect society, recognising the role and status of Egyptian women and the importance of continuing to support them during this current phase.
In March, a decree was issued by the prime minister to lower office density in the public sector by reducing the number of employees. The decree included protections such as granting pregnant employees and working mothers whose children are under 12 exceptional leave throughout the decree’s implementation period. In line with this decision, the NCW said that should there be complaints from female workers in the public sector who face any challenges with respect to the prime minister’s decision, they should be reported on the organisation’s hotline.
Maya Morsy, the NCW president, pointed out that the first policy Note issued by the Women Policy Tracker covering 14 March to 6 April aimed at monitoring policies and measures adopted by the government to fulfill women’s needs. “The government’s efforts are based on President Al-Sisi’s directives regarding the importance of mustering efforts by government institutions and bodies to deal decisively and effectively with the crisis,” Morsy said.
The government, according to Morsy, was also taking into consideration the importance of mainstreaming and integrating women in decision-making processes and implementing programmes in order to ensure their protection from social, economic and psychological repercussions of the virus. The NCW, she said, will work with government authorities to support the development and implementation of mitigation and response policies to ensure the protection of women.
According to the policy note, the virus has seriously affected women’s engagement in economic activities especially in the informal sector. In Egypt, 40.9 per cent of female non-agricultural employment is in informal employment and 33.9 per cent of females work in vulnerable jobs. Egyptian women also represent 70 per cent of the paid care sector workforce, mainly as teachers, health and social workers.
In addition to including an analysis of the status quo, the NCW policy note also presented a number of proposed response measures, whether immediate or mid-term, to concerned ministries and government institutions regarding issues related to health, education and social protection. The policy Note further tackles violence against women, leadership and representation in decision making during crisis management, and the impact on economic opportunities.
Morsy stressed that the NCW will continue tracking and monitoring policies and programmes that respond to the needs of women during this crisis.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly