The National meeting "From Ministerial Conclusions to Gender Equality Policy Making in the Euro-Med Region" took place on the 24th of April 2017 in the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, Cairo. The meeting was organized by the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE) in partnership with Euromed Feminist Initiative. The one day event gathered representatives of civil society, gender experts and representatives of concerned ministries, who discussed the policy recommendations for improving the status of gender equality, that have been developed during a one year process in the frame of the project “Gender Regional Platform” funded by the European Union. This meeting was part of the process to prepare for the 4th UfM Ministerial conference on women’s rights, scheduled to take place in Egypt in the fall this year.
Dr Majdi Abdulhamid, Director of the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement and board member of Euromed Feminist Initiative opened the meeting, welcomed the audience and gave a short brief of the gender regional platform.
Ms. Sherin Mawad, Third Secretary of the assistant office of the Foreign Minister for Human Rights, pointed out the Office's interest in the human rights file in general and the women’s rights file in particular and she highlighted the importance of the cooperation between all governmental and non-governmental sectors for an effective change.
In the first session, speakers presented and discussed the gender regional platform policy recommendations in the four identified priority areas:
- Ending discrimination against women and strengthening women’s participation.
- Reform education, changing gender stereotypes and attitudes towards gender equality.
- Ending violence against women, wars and occupation.
- Ensuring freedom and independent action of the civil society as well as support to women’s rights organizations.
Dr Azza Kamel, Chairperson of Appropriate Communication and Media Center for Development (ACT) spoke about the education reform, changing gender stereotypes and attitudes towards gender equality and presented some statistics on girls and women in Egypt: “ 1 out of 10 school girls feel they are less secured and more vulnerable to harassment and violence and they suffer from gender based discrimination in schools". She underlined that the education reform process can’t be implemented without the support of the Ministry of Education and she added that there are many risks arise which affect the society in general and the women status in particular due to the gender based inequality. Ms. Kamel stressed the need to eliminate all forms of violence, the idea of early marriage and circumcision and she also highlighted the importance of women's equal participation in decision-making processes. Furthermore, she said that among the recommendations that must be taken into account are:
- Include the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in funding the education reform
- Provide equal services without discrimination
- Commit to zero tolerance of violence against women and girls
Ms. Azza Soliman, Director of Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance spoke about ensuring freedom and independent action of the civil society as well as support to women’s rights organizations and she reminded the audience with the famous attack on the civil society that occurred in late 2015 and she added: “Civil society organizations in Egypt face severe restrictions, reduction of freedom and access to resources problem which affect the effectiveness of their work” and she pointed out the role of national mechanisms especially the National Council for Women in ensuring the freedom of civil society and activists.
Ms. Mozn Hassan, Executive director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, emphasized the role of the Egyptian government in eliminating violence and rape against women and the urgent need to restore the government current policies and she suggested to develop a general policy for engendering the policies.
Dr. Magdi Abdulhamid, talked about ending discrimination against women and strengthening women’s participation in Egypt and he mentioned the positive discrimination that happened in the previous parliamentary elections in Egypt and described it as a national achievement.
The open discussion following the first session witnessed many interventions from the audience and they all agreed that there is a problem in the educational curricula and that the cooperation between the government and civil society is very necessary while preserving the state of the civil society in Egypt and its diversity as well as the importance of empowering the role of the civil society organizations. In addition, the discussions affirmed the importance of the education reform, empowering women and facilitating their access to resources and information.
During the following session experts from the civil society, political sphere and relevant ministries discussed ways to turn these recommendations into concrete actions to enhance the lives of women taking into account the variables that took place in Egypt during the last period and its impact on the four priority areas that were discussed previously such as: The increase in the phenomenon of violence against women. In the end, the participants expressed their optimism that the upcoming 4th UfM Ministerial Conference on women’s rights, scheduled to take place in Egypt in the fall this year would be able to change the status of women in Egypt and in the whole region.