Enhancing women’s empowerment for sustainable growth

An estimated one in four Egyptian entrepreneurs and one in six established business-owners is a woman.[1] But according to the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, while 30 per cent of all businesses in Egypt are owned by women, they access less than 10 per cent of commercial bank finance.[2] Lack of access to financial resources makes it difficult for women to grow their businesses. Women may also focus on traditional businesses that may not offer the greatest potential for longer-term sustainable growth.

To address such challenges, in 2019, the UN Women Egypt Country Office (ECO) and UNIDO initiated a joint programme entitled “Women’s Economic Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth”. The programme aims to enhance the well-being of at least 6,300 Egyptian women by increasing their access to employment and/or self-employment opportunities.

From 2019–2024, the programme seeks to:

  • Increase new businesses established by women entrepreneurs in the targeted sectors
  • Enhance the capacity of women-led businesses to grow, attract and retain workers
  • Strengthen the performance of productive clusters to employ more women
  • Enhance the employability of women in growth-oriented sectors
  • Increase the ability of businesses to implement gender-sensitive corporate policies
  • Strengthen the individual and collective agency of women in the targeted sectors
  • Enhance the capacity of government to mainstream gender in public policies and programmes
  • Increase women entrepreneurs’ access to tailored financial and non-financial services.

The programme combines interventions at the policy level while working with women and businesses to increase productivity, job opportunities and women’s employment, and reduce gender-specific barriers to women’s entrepreneurship and entry/continuity in the workforce. The programme works to raise private sector awareness of inclusive business models to advance economic and social returns on investment by implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles. Gender-responsive procurement and budgeting will be promoted and critical data and knowledge will be generated to support evidence-based advocacy and policymaking.

The programme’s main national counterparts are the National Council for Women and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Generously funded by Global Affairs Canada, this joint UN Women-UNIDO programme is expected to will run until 2024.

[1] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. 2017. Egypt national report 2016–2017. https://www.gemconsortium.org/report/50239

[2] International Finance Corporation. 2016. “Unlocking the Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Egypt.” https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/news_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/news+and+events/news/unlocking+the+potential+of+women+entrepreneurs+in+egypt