President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks on during a swearing-in ceremony in Algiers 28 April, 2014. (Photo:Reuters)
A regional branch of the United Nations for Women praised Algeria's government for appointing seven female ministers to its cabinet, calling the move "historical" and a "role model" for neighbouring Arab countries.
The seven women were appointed after a cabinet reshuffle, following Algerian President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika's re-election.
In a statement released on Thursday, Samira El-Tewegry, regional director for the Arab States of the United Nations for Women, expressed her "pride and gladness" regarding such an unprecedented step among all Arab governments.
"The decision is historical; Algeria has never appointed such an amount of females in its executive branch," she said.
The statement further stressed the UN's beliefs in equality and women's empowerment and argued that Algeria has established itself as "a role model for other Arab countries."
The high representation of women in Algeria's government – 20 percent of all ministerial positions – is even unprecedented on regional and international levels, the statement noted.
According to UN Women, most of the female ministers in the new cabinet signify "new faces" in the Algerian political arena.
The women occupying the seven new ministerial posts are: Minister of Education Nouria Benghebrit; Minister of Land-Use Planning and Environment Dalila Boudjemaa; Minister of Culture Nadia Labidi; Minister of Family and Women Mounia Meslem; Minister of Post, Information Technology and Communication Zahra Dardouri; Minister of Tourism Nouria Yamina Zerhouni and Delegate Minister of Handicrafts Aish Tabagho.
A new law passed in 2012 by Algeria's government stipulated a quota system for women's participation in parliament, a change that the UN hailed as opening up opportunities for more than 100 women in the political field.
"We wish the new ministers all the best and hope further progress for Algeria in women's empowerment and political representation," the UN's statement on Thursday said.
"If something is to be concluded, it is Algeria's belief in investing in the energies of its women and assigning them to positions of decision making to develop the whole country."
Yara El-Sherif, communications manager at UN Women's Regional Office for Arab States, told Ahram Online that "what Algeria has reached so far is very impressive."
"The selection of seven females as ministers, along with 145 women entering parliament, is something that has never happened before in the Arab world," she said.
El-Sherif said that these ministers are still playing an important role – like Nouria Benghebrit, the new education minister – even though they are not in control of the most important cabinet portfolios.
She said she hopes that women can hold more vital posts in the future.
"I am optimistic about the future of Algeria, as this only shows the beginning," the UN official added.
The changes in Algeria's cabinet took place after Bouteflika was re-elected for a fourth term as president in a landslide victory last month, despite grave concerns about his health status.
Bouteflika re-appointed Abdel-Malek Sellal as prime minister after the latter stepped down in February to run Bouteflika's electoral campaign.
A presidential statement on 5 May declared that Bouteflika had issued a decree naming members of his government following consultations with the prime minister.