Egyptian Women Hold the Key to Egypt’s Prosperity

Stephane Guimbert
Friday 8 Mar 2024

While the Egyptian economy is going through rough times, with its longstanding challenges at creating jobs compounded by multiple adverse external shocks, a critical question arises: Who can unlock the path to sustainable development? Egyptian women! They constitute a significant part of the solution.


Women make up nearly half of the working-age population. But, despite significant strides in health and education, fewer than one in six women were employed in 2022. This figure represents a decline from 2009 when one in four women worked compared to three in four men who are employed.

The World Bank analysis titled "How Large Are the Economic Dividends from Closing Gender Employment Gaps in the Middle East and North Africa?" suggests that eliminating this gender gap would help grow the economy by a whopping 50 percent.

Recognizing this untapped opportunity, Egypt has implemented serious measures over the past decades, both legislatively and procedurally, to address key root challenges that hinder gender equality.

In 2017, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi adopted the National Strategy for Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030 (NSEW 2030) with a clear directive to the government, making Egypt the first country globally to align its national women's strategy 2030 with the SDGs.

Despite these efforts, the economic participation of women in the economy has enormous untapped potential – potential that can bring income to families and foster growth for the benefit of all Egyptians.

So, what are the solutions? We must dismantle the many bottlenecks that constrain women's economic participation. This includes improving access to safe transport and providing affordable quality childcare. Equitable access to finance and more equal control over resources and assets matter are also crucial. Additionally, a thorough understanding of social and gender norms is imperative."

Campaigns like the Taa Marbouta by the National Council for Women (NCW) have shown success in advocacy and communication. Efforts must continue to combat workplace harassment and public transport harassment, empowering women, and their families with knowledge of protective measures and tools.

Investing in childcare facilities not only enables women to return to work but also creates employment opportunities within the sector itself. Coverage for nurseries remains low, at 14 percent for children between 0-4 years, and 31 percent for preschool children between 4-6 years.

The World Bank's Women Economic Empowerment Study for Egypt highlights sectors with potential for female employment, such as the care economy, garment manufacturing, and ICT. Reducing employment barriers through structural reforms and creating jobs that accommodate care responsibilities are crucial.

To promote, incentivize, and institutionalize gender equity in the Egyptian private sector, the World Bank Group (WBG) partnered with the NCW to revive the Egyptian Gender Equity Seal (EGES) certification. This model promotes gender equity in the private sector by building a series of good practices in the areas of (i) recruitment; (ii) career development; (iii) family-work balance; and (iv) sexual harassment policies. Additionally, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the WBG, is providing advisory services, promoting gender diversity on corporate boards, and supporting initiatives to improve women's access to employment and financial services, all aimed at advancing gender equality and empowering women.

The World Bank has been supporting the Takaful and Karama cash transfer initiative, where women represent 75 percent of the recipients. This support has yielded beneficial outcomes for women's financial independence and decision-making capabilities. Additionally, the FORSA economic inclusion program has been instrumental in transitioning beneficiaries from social protection to productive engagement by facilitating access to livelihood opportunities.

Strengthening gender statistics is essential for informed policymaking and program design: lack of data makes the poor and vulnerable invisible. The World Bank's collaboration with the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) to produce and analyze gender-disaggregated data and time-use surveys will help monitor progress.

On the WBG level, we are looking forward to the forthcoming Gender Strategy 2024-2030 as it charts a path forward for us to innovate, finance, and act collectively with partners to end gender-based violence, build and protect human capital, expand, and enable economic opportunities and engage women as leaders. This new strategy will be formally launched in 2024, shaped by extensive and inclusive engagement with public and private sector clients, development partners, civil society, and other key stakeholders.

Empowering women and girls is a moral imperative; but it is also instrumental for more inclusive institutions, more income for families, and more jobs for the economy. As we celebrate International Women's Day, let's make the economic empowerment of women the priority for Egypt's future. It's time to embrace the full potential of society by ensuring that women have equal opportunities to contribute to the country’s prosperity.

* Stephane Guimbert, World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti

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