Egypt's First Lady, Finnish President discuss women empowerment

Safaa Abdoun
6 Min Read

CAIRO: Egypt’s First Lady Suzanne Mubarak highlighted the need to “act now towards women’s empowerment during a recent panel discussion.

The panel discussion, titled “Women’s Participation and Empowerment for Peace and Security, was held Tuesday on the occasion of Finnish President Tarja Halonen’s visit to Egypt. It was organized by the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement (SWIPM) in cooperation with the Embassy of Finland.

In her welcome speech, the First Lady described the issue as “a matter close to our hearts. This meeting, she continued, “further consolidates our collective commitment [towards] the empowerment of women [and to achieve] peace and security.

Mubarak explained why women’s empowerment is important in achieving peace and security.

“They [women] serve as architectures of peace and security for many reasons, she explained. “First of all, in health and education they have served as agents of change in the care sector, and in the goods and value adding services they are pivotal to political and economic peace building efforts . and without security and peace there is no social future.

Empowering women is empowering the generations they are raising and, in turn, the future, Mubarak said. “We are activating powerful sources for change.

“We need to act and act now, said Mubarak, noting that there needs to be active cooperation between governments, the private sector and civil society in order to move forward.

“We are at a crossroad historically, politically and economically and the choice of how to proceed is ours, she concluded.

Mubarak introduced Halonen by saying that she serves as a role model to women, not only in Finland but all over the world as “a person of passion and compassion who cares profoundly for peace.

Halonen recognized Egypt’s continuous efforts towards peace and understanding throughout history, even during times of conflict.

Like Mubarak, she stressed the need for a strong collaboration all sides to reach this goal. “Half the globe is women and they are powerful actors, she added.

Halonen said that we have to encourage fellow citizens by giving them concrete success stories of women and their role.

She further highlighted other threats in the world that will drastically affect women everywhere. “Climate change is a particular threat to the poor and 70 percent of world’s poor are women and girls, she said.

Nadia Makram Ebied, former minister of state for environmental affairs, said, “Climate change, this terrible threat will bring climate refugees. And it is the women and children who really suffer. This is a global challenge which needs a global solution.

Both Mubarak and Halonen in their speeches referred to the United Nations’ Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This is the first resolution that specifically addresses the impact of war on women, and women’s contribution to conflict resolution and sustainable peace.

Mubarak emphasized the importance of awareness raising programs regarding this resolution.

“This resolution is really old, we will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next year, said the Finnish President, noting that over this period, practical implementation of the resolution has been lacking.

Moderating the discussion was Ismail Serageldin, director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and board member of the SMWIPM, who noted that “the global community [has realized that only with the] wisdom and leadership of women [will we have] peace and security.

Representatives of international organizations, civil society, diplomatic missions and members of the SMWIPM Youth Network were present at the discussion.

“It must be recognized that women are an important factor in political and social change, the role of women is essential in all fields, said Andrew Claret, director of the Anna Lindh Foundation in Alexandria.

He added that in Egypt in particular there has been a growing role of young women in initiating intercultural dialogue.

Participants in the discussion suggested partnerships between civil society organizations in Egypt and their counterparts in Finland. Other project proposals were cultural exchange through translation of literature and learning from the Finnish model of education, commended by the participants as among the best in the world.

“We need to highlight the success stories, we have built 115 girl-friendly schools in remote areas which have changed the quality of life there, said Aziza Helmy, senior advisor at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood.

On a final note at the discussion, a young Egyptian-Finnish woman asked Mubarak what advice she would give women under 30 in light of empowerment efforts.

“We are privileged, educated and exposed, our duty is to give and help others, not just through charity, but be part of an organization or association to give a hand to these women, she answered.

“From youth groups to the National Council for Women and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood have open arms [for volunteers in their different programs], she suggested.

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