The National Council for Women (NCW), the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), the European Union (EU), the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and UN Women in Egypt have announced the launch of the project of Women’s Empowerment and Financial and Economic Inclusion in Rural Egypt: COVID-19 Response.
The project was launched on the occasion of celebrating International Women’s day, aiming to focus on the tremendous efforts of women and girls in shaping a more equal future and full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The newly launched project, co-led by the NCW and the CBE, implemented with the support of UN Women Egypt, and co-funded by the EU and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, tackles obstacles to women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment by investing in the scale up and digitalisation of a successful initiative, known as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) for women.
The project targets over 120,000 women in the governorates of Minya, Beni Sueif, Assiut, and Sohag, and aims to expand the scale, sustainability, and impact of VSLAs through leveraging technology of different e-payment methods, thereby enhancing women’s access to financial services.
In addition, the project will support small-scale women-led enterprises in rural areas and will increase rural women’s digital and financial literacy through training.
“Women’s economic empowerment is one of Egypt’s top national priorities, in line with the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030, which is backed by a genuine political will of the government, which sincerely believes that empowering women means empowering the whole community,” said Maya Morsy, President of the NCW.
She added that the Egyptian Constitution of 2014 established the foundations for non-discrimination and equal opportunities, and Egypt is also now witnessing a number of legislative reforms to support women’s economic empowerment.
Additionally, financial inclusion is at the forefront of the government’s priorities, being considered an essential target for women’s economic empowerment, according to Morsy
“Through the cooperation of our partners, we aim with this project to continue the government’s efforts and take vigorous steps towards overcoming the obstacles that hinder women”, she said.
“Egypt is witnessing unprecedented support by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to enhance the advancement of the Egyptian woman, and to assure her role in the society in an historic era of comprehensive Egyptian Renaissance of the state in all its political, economic, social, legislative and institutional aspects, including securing the role of the Egyptian woman in rebuilding Egyptian Citizens,” said Ambassador Raouf Saad, chairman of the National Bureau for the Implementation of the Egypt-EU Association Agreement in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“This project aims to attain woman’s financial inclusion and her economic empowerment to mitigate COVID-19 implications. As such, this experience could be shared with many countries, particularly African countries, with a view to promoting an exchange of experiences and new innovative projects in this area,” he added.
The project is aligned with the action plan of the ‘Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator’, co-led by the Ministry of International Cooperation and the NCW, as a national public-private collaboration model that enables governments and businesses to act to close economic gender gaps.
Additionally, it falls within the framework of the National Programme for Digital Village Savings and Loans Associations, led by the NCW and the CBE.
May Abul Naga, the first sub-governor of the CBE, said that the collective power of women saving groups has inspired the CBE to invest in a sustainable support system and a user-friendly digital infrastructure, primarily to formalise the groups and financially educate and include women.
“We believe this will open new realms for digital financial services to economically empower rural women of Egypt. We value our partnership with the National Council for Women and look forward to a successful execution of the digital saving groups program,” she added.
For his part, the head of the EU Delegation to Egypt, Ambassador Christian Berger, noted that COVID-19 has brought hardship and many challenges for people all over the world, adding that often women are particularly affected.
The EU, the member states, and European financial institutions, acting together as ‘Team Europe’, have committed new resources and adapted existing programmes to support the resilience of our partner countries and their societies, according to Berger.
“Working with our partners, in Egypt and beyond, on heightening the empowerment and strengthening the protection of women and girls is at the heart of the EU’s Global Response. We maintain our strong commitment to supporting women’s empowerment, including their socio-economic rights and participation in public life, and ending violence against women and girls,” Berger explained.
Egypt was the first country in the world to issue a policy paper on “Egypt’s Rapid Response to Women’s Situation during the COVID-19 Outbreak”, that described the situation of women and helped shape the national response to the pandemic.
A “Women’s Policy Tracker on Responsive Policies and Programs during the New COVID-19 Pandemic” was launched by the government to monitor the implementation of these policies.