President Mohamed Morsi announced a new initiative on Sunday to support Egyptian women’s rights which aims to expand the role of women and resolve their most pressing challenges.
The initiative’s objectives include exploring methods that help improve the lives of women in Egypt, whether in rural or urban areas, while researching their status politically, economically, and socially. The project also aims at recognising and prioritising the challenges facing women across the country’s 27 governorates.
The conference was launched inside the presidential palace, with the cooperation of the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research and the participation of many governmental and civil society organisations. The National Council for Women, the National Council for Motherhood and Children, representatives of syndicates, and members of various political parties were among the participants.
During the inauguration of the initiative, Morsi said the project is a response to deliberately negative campaigns that distort the status of women in Egypt.
“The initiative will put an end to any attempts to marginalise women, diminish their rights, or suppress their freedom and dignity,” Morsi said.
In his speech, Morsi cited statistics showing high levels of illiteracy and unemployment among Egyptian women. He also mentioned that women are not fairly represented in senior leadership positions in the country.
Presidential Advisor Omayma Kamel said the initiative “views women’s challenges with new eyes”. She explained that the project will continue until July 2013 and will hold six major workshops and 54 roundtable discussions.
“The issue of sexual harassment is at the top of the agenda for discussions. An entire workshop day is devoted to debating this phenomenon,” Kamel said.
She added that the workshops would also discuss the political participation of women, as well as the possibility of creating a national network to defend the rights of women across the country.
Nesreen Baghdady, head of the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research, stressed that the initiative is based on scientific research and will work with a carefully-selected sample to ensure the credibility of the results.
“This project uses scientific methodology. We ultimately aim at promoting the different roles of women,” she said.
Kamel denied that the initiative comes in response to the United Nation’s declaration to end violence against women, issued on 15 March.
Islamist political parties have condemned the document, stating that it violates Sharia and contradicts Islamic morals. Some of the document’s clauses include the right of wives to file reports against marital rape and promote equal inheritance rights for men and women.