Strides in women’s well-being

Reem Leila , Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

The political and economic inclusion of Egyptian women significantly improved in 2023, reports Reem Leila

Women occupied 22.9 per cent of parliamentary and local government seats in 2023
Women occupied 22.9 per cent of parliamentary and local government seats in 2023


Egyptian women made significant progress in the 2023-24 Women, Peace and Security (WPS) index, moving up 28 places since 2016 to 110 out of 177 countries in 2023.

The index, published by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, distills the country’s performance using 13 indicators that measure women’s status, ranging from participation in political and developmental processes, protection from violence and discrimination, and empowerment through education and employment.

The index for 2023-24 is based on several indicators divided into three axes: inclusion, justice, and security.

Inclusion sheds light on women’s share in education, political, and financial activities. The education quality index measures the average number of years of comprehensive and good education for women aged 25. Egypt’s score in this index came at 9.8 in 2023 with Germany having the highest score at 13.8.

The percentage of seats occupied by women in national parliaments and local governments came at 22.9 per cent in 2023, while the average representation of women in parliaments in the Middle East and North Africa is 17.7 per cent. Egypt made significant progress in the parliamentary seat index for women, as confirmed by its advancement of 49 places in the Women’s Political Empowerment Index (World Economic Forum), ranking 85th in 2023 compared to 134th in 2014, noted a commentary by the Strategic Studies Centre (SCC).

On the financial level, the percentage of women having bank accounts in Egypt surged from 9.2 in to 24.2 in 2023. The number of women owning bank accounts has reached 20.3 million out of 32.3 million, accounting for 62.7 per cent according to the Central Bank of Egypt data in 2023. The improvement is attributed by the SCC to the legislative and regulatory environment facilitating women’s access to financial services and products. Additionally, initiatives and projects have been launched to enhance financial inclusion and economic empowerment for women, along with financial education and awareness-building to keep pace with developments in the field.

The justice axis includes the index of absence of legal discrimination which measures whether existing legal frameworks enforce and monitor gender equality and non-discrimination. Egypt has progressed in this field, reaching 50.6 in 2023 compared to 35 in 2016.

Egypt’s progress in the absence of a legal discrimination index, according to Isis Mahmoud, head of the National Council for Women’s (NCW) central training and development administration, is due to the strong legislative environment adopted by the state since 2014 to empower women politically, economically, and socially, providing protection and eliminating all forms of violence against them. “The issuance of some delayed laws, such as the new personal status law and the anti-early marriage law, is expected to contribute to achieving social justice for women and further progress in international indicators,” Mahmoud said.

The maternal mortality rate measures the number of maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth per 100,000 live births. Egypt has significantly reduced maternal mortality to 16.8 deaths per 100,000 women. This, compared to 183 in Yemen and 7.2 in Kuwait, the worst and best in the group of Middle East and North Africa countries surveyed by the index.

The Ministry of Health and Population has conducted several workshops nationwide to increase the awareness of mothers about the importance of family planning which contributed to the improvement of the maternal mortality index, according to Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar, the ministry spokesman.

“The ministry has increased the number of health units which helped in women’s access to pregnancy care in general and on a regular basis. This is in addition to the increase in the percentage of births attended by healthcare providers instead of midwives,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.

Abdel-Ghaffar said progress made by the government in reducing maternal mortality is attributed to the success of the presidential health initiatives aimed at Egyptian women, specifically for maternal and fetal health which improved pregnancy care indicators to 97 per cent in 2021 compared to 90 per cent in 2014.

The domestic violence index measures the percentage of women aged 15 and over who have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. The index decreased from 26.5 per cent in 2016 to 15 per cent in 2023.

Mahmoud pointed to the council’s collaborated efforts with the government that resulted in launching a national strategy to combat violence against women in 2015. The plan has led to the issuance of several pieces of legislation aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women, including intensifying the penalty for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by making it a felony instead of a misdemeanour, with imprisonment ranging from five to seven years instead of a maximum two years. Jail time could be increased to 15 years if the victim dies or suffers permanent disfigurement.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 28 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: