Canada, Mexico and Sweden present nine 'Champions of Change' awards to mark Egyptian Women's Day

Ahram Online , Wednesday 15 Mar 2023

Canada, Sweden and Mexico presented nine Egyptian women with "Champions of Change" awards to appreciate their contributions to gender equality and national development in a celebration to mark Egyptian Women's Day, which falls on the 16th of March every year.

Ortega, Dumas, and Persson with Egyptian women, the 2023 Champions of Change awardees
Ortega, Dumas, and Persson with Egyptian women, the 2023 Champions of Change awardees

The 2023 edition of “Champions of Change” awards ceremony was hosted on Monday at the official residence of the Mexican Ambassador in Cairo. 

The ceremony was attended by Héctor Ortega, Chargé d'Affaires of Mexico; Louis Dumas, Ambassador of Canada; and Jorgen Persson, Chargé d'Affaires of Sweden.

It celebrated social, economic and political achievements of inspiring Egyptian women.

The award ceremony takes place in conjunction with the celebration of International and Egyptian Women's Day. 

The three countries – Canada, Sweden and Mexico –  are long-standing advocates of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

The "Champions of Change" awards were established to recognise the contributions of Egyptian gender equality pioneers and their efforts in building a stronger Egypt.

And the awardees are

"Champions of Change" awardees represent the progress of Egyptian women’s leadership in different domains.

The awardees for 2023 edition were:

Nehal Balbaa, Deputy Governor of Beheira, received the first award for her efforts in advancing women empowerment in the governorate and as a key partner and driver of success to Canada’s development programmes in Beheira.

Nuria Sanz, Officer in Charge – UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science in the Arab States.

Hanna Aboul-Ghar, Co-founder of Banati Foundation –  an NGO that provides shelter, healthcare, psycho-social support, and education, amongst other activities for girls in straitened circumstances.

Hala Barakat, Director, Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, School of Business, the American University in Cairo.

Her work to support women from different backgrounds and age groups has had an impact on the role women play in the economic development of Egypt.

Karma Mohamed Sami, Director of the National Centre for Translation.

Heba Handoussa, Founder and Managing Director of the Egypt Network for Integrated Development – a ten-year UNDP project founded in 2012 to design, develop, and implement effective social and economic development strategies in rural upper Egypt; together with Reham Shaaban, a self-starter entrepreneur who owns an expanding honey business in Minya and who has benefited from a Canada funded project to empower women in agribusiness,

Amira Sayed, African Union Media Fellow, Head of Department at The Egyptian Gazette, and Member of World Youth Parliament for Water.

Filmmaker Sandra Nashaat, whose long feature films in recent years were box office successes.

Canada: Advancing gender equality internationally

Canada’s feminist international assistance policy continues to guide the country’s efforts to advance gender equality around the world.  

In 2021-22, Canada allocated 99 percent of its bilateral international development assistance toward initiatives that either targeted or integrated gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

This included funding to tackle gender-based discrimination and to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services to ensure women and girls can exercise their right to make decisions about their own bodies.

 It also included funding to help more women start a business or secure decent work.

Last week, Canada’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Development, and International Trade marked the 2023 International Women’s Day.

They issued a joint statement in which they highlighting that “In today’s online world, it is staggering that 259 million fewer women have access to the Internet compared to men[ and that] among women with Internet access, more than one in three have experienced gender-based violence online. And despite progress, there are still nearly twice the number of men than women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classrooms worldwide.” 

“Let’s aim for closing all gender gaps in digital access and skills. As our daily lives become increasingly digitalised, gender gaps in digital access threaten to leave women and girls even further behind.  Today, 63 percent of women in the world have access to the internet, compared to 69 percent of men, and women are 12 percent less likely to own a mobile phone. Marginalised groups such as older women, rural women, and women with disabilities face significantly more barriers to connectivity. Let’s do more to support women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Women’s participation in shaping technology, research, investments, and policy will remain critically limited without equal representation in these fields,” said Canadian ambassador Dumas.

Mexico: Promoting a gender perspective

Significantly, Mexico’s feminist foreign policy has been characterized by its leadership in promoting a gender perspective and human rights approach in its bilateral and regional agendas, as well as in multilateral negotiations. Additionally, it has developed mechanisms and protocols for caring for victims of gender violence as part of its consular protection work for Mexican women abroad. Regarding innovation and technology for gender equality, Mexico supports an agenda that includes digital education, eradication of the digital gender gap and digital gender violence, and greater participation of women and girls in STEM careers.

Ortega, Chargé d'Affaires of Mexico, commented, “This year’s IWD focuses on “Innovation and technology for gender equality.”  From the start of computers to the present age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, women have made significant contributions to the digital world. Their accomplishments have been, against all odds, in a field that has historically neither welcomed nor appreciated them. Today, a persistent gender gap in digital access keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential. Their underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers remains a significant barrier to their participation in tech design and governance.  Today, women comprise under a third of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. And when women are under-represented in developing new technologies, discrimination is present from the start.”

Sweden:  Economic empowerment top priorities

Gender equality and economic empowerment are top priorities for the Swedish government. The focus of Sweden’s action for gender equality includes increasing the efforts against violence against women, investing in women’s health and taking new steps for women’s economic empowerment.

Through the Government and the Swedish development cooperation Agency (Sida), Sweden works closely with Egypt on multiple gender programmes, including topics in increasing the participation of women in the labour market, economic empowerment, and gender rights.

According to Persson, Chargé d'Affaires of Sweden, “The digital divide is often portrayed as a matter of women’s and girls’ disinclination towards tech. That is not the case. The exclusion of women and girls in technology is perpetuated through gender bias and social pressures, and it is shrinking their futures and deepening gender, economic and social inequalities. Let me give you an example: 43 percent of Egypt’s university STEM students were women as of 2017, but only 23 percent of women who take part in STEM at university level end up in tech roles. It goes without saying that increased participation of women in the technological sphere is a must and crucial in the eradication of the digital gender gap. But let me end on a happy note; digital technology is opening new doors for the global empowerment of women, girls, and other marginalised groups. From gender-responsive digital learning to tech-facilitated sexual and reproductive healthcare, the digital age represents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequality.”

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