One such panel was organised by Banque Misr, one of Egypt’s largest and longest standing banks, and moderated by Sue Barrett, the head of infrastructure for Turkey, Middle East and Africa at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Highlighting the role of women as the primary caregivers and household leaders, the speakers explored ways in which finance can empower women, shielding them against climate and social vulnerabilities.
With women bearing the brunt of climate change impacts – for example, they comprise 80 percent of the global population displaced by climate change – it was inevitable that policymakers would address the two issues together.
Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN climate change high level champion for Egypt, emphasised the need to enhance the role of women in the business sector.
Mohieldin cited the country’s National Initiative for Smart Green Projects carried out in Egyptian governorates as an exemplar representation of such inclusion.
The climate champion also emphasised to the need to promote long-term investments to support viable projects, particularly in sectors where it is difficult to obtain direct investments. In this context, he praised the financing policies of the International Development Agency (IDA).
Meanwhile, Maya Morsy, president of Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW), pointed out that the “window of time for achieving gender equality and empowering women prior to 2030 requires increasing women’s participation and inclusion in decision-making and policymaking at all levels internationally, regionally and locally.”
At the same time, she noted that women globally face challenges funding green projects, due to both limited economic opportunities in the sector and misconceptions about gender.
“The lack of actual equality for women and girls internationally limits the sustainable and equitable transition to resilient water, energy and food systems around the world, especially in the regions most vulnerable to climate change impacts,” Morsy added.
Entrepreneur and CEO of Ramsco Organic Rawya Mansour presented an outstanding model of sustainable organic agriculture that also promotes gender equity as she discussed her experience working with female farmers in Egypt.
“Traditionally, women were not allowed to own lands and were not paid an equal wage to men working in farming. They were brought by an agent who received a percentage of their wage. Falling completely under the control of such an imbalanced system, women were left vulnerable and unable to gain property or improve their living conditions,” Mansour said.
“Through our work at Ramsco Egypt,” Mansour explained, “we managed over time to employ these women farmers directly, empowering women who were otherwise underprivileged due to divorce or early marriage. These women are now being paid equally to the men and are able to support their families, producing 40 to 80 percent of agricultural crops produced by Ramsco.”
In addition to her organic farming ventures, for which she has received two patents, Mansour is starting a foundation with the sole purpose of capacity building in her micro community.
“We are working on capacity building and convincing decision makers to bring in support and offer land propriety via banks and micro loans to women working in the fields. We offered to provide the seeds and organic fertilisers to women in order to enable them to secure better conditions for themselves while reclaiming plots of desert land,” she added.
Named one of Africa’s most influential leaders in 2019, Mansour is a pioneer in organic farming who has led the early efforts to produce biochar.
Biochar is an organic soil amendement known for its ability to reduce water consumption by 30-60 percent and loss of soil nutrients, as well as decrease the amount of fertilisers needed.
These benefits are especially important as imported fertilisers are a major consumer of energy and a driver of other environmental harms.
Through capacity building, improving land ownership among women and providing micro finance opportunities, Ramsco Egypt has enabled farmers, especially women, to connect to the wider global network of producers, benefiting both themselves and their families in addition to pushing forward climate action.
Commenting on the panel’s content and intertwined connection between gender and climate action, mansour said that “combining food security and fighting climate change are in perfect harmony with the development of land, afforestation, and the advancement of women’s economic conditions. As with all development issues, one cannot happen without the other.”
The panels and fireside talks taking place on the sidelines of COP27 have presented endless opportunities for partnerships and insightful discussions around women, water, finance and their connection to climate change.