International Women’s Day

On the Occasion of International Women's Day: The National Council for Women, the European Union, the United Kingdomof the Netherlands, and UN Women Celebrate the Launch of a Project to Eliminate Violence Aganist Women and to Advance Women's Financial Inclusion and Economic Empowerment in Rural Egypt

Date: Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Joint Press Release

For Immediate Release

Cairo, 10 March 2021

Photos: Courtesy of the National Council of Women/Ossama Magdy
Photos: Courtesy of the National Council of Women/Ossama Magdy

On 8 March 2021, the world celebrated International Women’s day highlighting the theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”.  To mark this important day, 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 joined forces to celebrate the tremendous efforts of women and girls in shaping a more equal future and full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the framework of a longstanding partnership, the partners launched a new project entitled ‘Women’s Empowerment and Financial and Economic Inclusion in Rural Egypt: COVID-19 Response’.

The newly launched project, co-led by NCW and the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), implemented with the support of UN Women Egypt, and co-funded by the European Union and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, tackles obstacles to women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment by investing in the scale up and digitalization of a successful initiative, known as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs)[1] for women. The project targets over 120,000 women in the governorates of Minya, Benisuef, Assiut and Sohag. It aims to expand the scale, sustainability, and impact of VSLAs through leveraging technology of different e-payment methodsthereby enhancing women’s access to financial services. In addition, the project will support small-scale women-led enterprises in rural areas. Rural women’s digital and financial literacy will also be increased 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. The Egyptian Constitution of 2014 established the foundations for non-discrimination and equal opportunities principles, and we also now witness 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 mean for women’s economic empowerment,” stated H.E. Maya Morsy, President of NCW. “Through the cooperation our partners, we aim with this project to continue the government's efforts and take vigorous steps towards overcoming the obstacles that hinder women’s economic empowerment, and improving their status and living conditions as well as ensuring their protection, which all in turn support Egypt's development and prosperity,” she added.

"Egypt is witnessing an unprecedented support by H.E President AbdelFattah Al-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 Egyptian state in all its political, economic, social, legislative and institutional aspects, including securing the role of the Egyptian woman in rebuilding the Egyptian Citizens” Stated H.E Ambassador Raouf Saad, Chairman of the National Bureau for the Implementation of Egypt-EU Association Agreement in Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“This project aims at attaining woman's financial inclusion and her economic empowerment to mitigate COVID-19 implications. As such, this experience could be shared with many countries, particularly, with African countries, with a view to promoting an exchange of experiences and new innovative projects in this area” he added. He referred with great appreciation to the constructive and effective contribution of the National Council for Women, under the leadership of H.E Dr. Maya Morsy, which is governed by sincere dedication and commitment to the cause of the Egyptian woman.

The project is also aligned with the action plan of the ‘Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator’, co-led by the Ministry of International Cooperation and NCWas 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.

“The collective power of the women saving groups has inspired us at the Central Bank of Egypt to invest in a sustainable support system and a user friendly digital infrastructure, primarily to formalize the groups and financially educate and include the women,” stated Mrs, May Abulnaga, First Subgovernor of the CBE. “We believe this will open new realms for digital financial services to economically empower the 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.

Together with EU Member States, the European Union has a longstanding partnership with national development partners, and civil society in supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment in Egypt. In the framework of the partnership priorities jointly agreed upon between Egypt and the European Union, several EU funded programmes have contributed to women’s socio-economic empowerment, participation in public life, and combating violence against women and girls.   

“COVID-19 has brought hardship and many challenges for people all over the world.  Often women are particularly affected. The European Union, 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.  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 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,” said H.E. Ambassador Christian Berger, Head of the EU Delegation to Egypt.

“This new project represents an important milestone. We join forces with our long-standing partners.  We believe that this intervention will contribute to women’s resilience during Covid-19 and will accelerate recovery more generally. We are convinced that with persistent and joint efforts geared at reinforcing the national agenda on women’s empowerment and protection, we contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive development in Egypt in line with the Vision 2030,” he added.

A lack of affordable, accessible and quality financing holds women entrepreneurs back and limits their growth. Under these circumstances, the majority of women entrepreneurs are confined to operating micro-businesses in the informal sector with limited growth potential. Thus, investing in women entrepreneurs means investing in development and growth. Together with our long-standing partners in Egypt, we aim with this program to support access to finance for women in Egypt”, stated H.E. Han-Maurits Schaapveld, Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands to Egypt. “Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is an essential goal in all components of the Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation policy, and increasing economic empowerment and improve the economic climate for women is paramount to achieve this”, he added.

In addition to enhancing women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment, with funding from the European Union, the project will contribute to increasing awareness and providing protection and response services to women and girls who experience or are at risk of violence. This will be achieved through strengthening the capacity of NCW’s Women’s Complaints Office to fulfill its objectives as well as engaging other local stakeholders to provide protection and response services for women. In addition, the NCWwill lead advocacy and awareness raising campaigns against violence against women, especially within COVID-19 context.

“Violence against women has been called the shadow pandemic, and it continues to be one of the most significant challenges for women to overcome worldwide, including in Egypt,” said UN Women Representative in Egypt, Ms. Christine Arab. “As Egypt moves from pandemic response to recovery, with the longer-term goal to ‘build back better’, it will be critical to keep women at the centre of all efforts. We hope that through the programmes and partnerships like those announced today, that we will not only expand women’s economic independence and ability to earn a living, but also cement women’s roles as the builders and innovators of tomorrow. For this vision to be realised, it is essential that the scourge of violence against women and girls be eradicated once and for all.”

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