The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, has concluded its long-term programme for combating violence against women after eight years.
The programme, entitled “Safe Cities Free from Violence Against Women and Girls: Ending Violence Against Women Survivor-Centered Approach”, was carried out in partnership with the National Council for Women (NCW) and the Ministry of Social Solidarity in Egypt, with the generous support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The closing ceremony included high-profile speakers: Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation; Nivine El-Kabbaj, Minister of Social Solidarity; Maya Morsy, President of NCW; Amal Ammar, President of the Court of Appeal and Assistant Minister of Justice for Human Rights, Women, Children’s Affairs; Ahmed Elsaid, President of the Court of Appeal and Director of the Criminal Research and Training Center at the Public Prosecution Office; Nicole Shampaine, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Egypt; and Christine Arab, UN Women Country Representative.
An interactive panel discussion was also held on effective prevention and response measures to end violence against women and girls. Among the panelists were Amal Tawifk, Director of the Women’s Complaints Office at NCW; Amina Tarraf, Associate Professor for Social Policies at the Ministry of Social Solidarity; Nehad Abolkomsan, Senior Lawyer and Chairperson of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights; Iqbal Elsamaloty, Chairperson of Future Eve Association; and Mariam Naoum; Award-winning scriptwriter and gender champion.
What is this programme about?
For 10 years, UN Women’s global initiative, Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls, has worked with leading women’s organizations, local and national governments, UN agencies, and other partners to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive approaches to prevent and respond to sexual harassment against women and girls in public spaces in different settings.
Ending violence against women and girls (VAW&G) requires an integrated approach. For the provision of comprehensive and targeted services for victims of VAW&G, UN Women Egypt aimed through this programme to establish a survivor-centred referral system. Case management at the local level through shelters and specialized service providers assures that victims do not face solitude while recovering from experiencing violence. Innovative community mobilization and capacity building sessions for shelter staff and community leaders assure the social reintegration of survivors. The programme also collaborates with local and international civil society organizations to develop spaces free from all forms of violence against women and girls in areas within and beyond Cairo.
Christine Arab said, “Under Egypt’s National Strategy to End Violence Against Women, in partnership with the Government of Egypt, UN Women’s programme has worked with essential service providers nationally and locally in supporting a survivor-centred approach, which seeks to empower women and girls in need while providing the most immediate services required for them to move forward beyond the violence experienced. Through the long-term support of USAID, the programme has successfully partnered in nationally-led interventions contributing to breaking the silence around VAWG at the community and national level.”
Minister Al-Mashat stated that the international partnerships concluded by the Ministry of International Cooperation with multilateral and bilateral development partners bolstered the efforts undertaken by the Government of Egypt and stakeholders to empower women, protect them from different forms of violence, and engage them in economic activities.
She commended the collaboration between stakeholders as represented by the partnership between UN Women and USAID, and between NCW and the Ministry of Social Solidarity, to implement the program to end violence against women and girls, which fostered Egypt’s efforts with regards to the provision of a female-friendly environment that shall avert all sorts of violence.
12 projects to empower women economically
Al-Mashat explained that the ongoing portfolio of the Ministry of International Cooperation includes 12 projects to achieve SDG 5: Gender Equality. These include: Promoting Gender-Responsive Workplaces in Egypt; Combating Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Egypt; Scaling up Safe Cities in Alexandria; Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion in Rural Egypt; Women’s Empowerment and Financial and Economic Inclusion in Rural Egypt: COVID-19 Response; and other projects that promote women’s empowerment and open up prospects for economic and social opportunities for women and girls.
The development financing concluded by the Ministry of International Cooperation with multilateral and bilateral development partners to support women’s empowerment and their participation in development efforts amounts to about $3.3bn to implement 34 projects in various development sectors, with 20% dedicated to the health sector; 15% for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); 14% for education; 9% for agriculture; 6% each for irrigation and governance; and 3% each for trade, investment, social protection, transportation, water, and sanitation sectors.
Women issues are top priority for Social Solidarity Ministry
Minister El Kabbaj highlighted that women occupy a top priority in all of the ministry’s programmes, with a special focus on girls, rural women, women heads of household, women with disabilities, women at risk or survivors of all forms of violence and economic exploitation, in addition to elderly women.
The Minister also praised the support of the political leadership and the efforts of the Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Interior and International Cooperation, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, NCW, and the National Council for Human Rights, in addition to the efforts of NGOs and youth in achieving unprecedented national progress in many milestones in recent years.
State agencies seek to empower Egyptian women
Maya Morsy expressed her gratitude for what Egyptian women are experiencing now in light of the current political will with regards to women’s empowerment, adding that the state agencies and institutions seek to empower Egyptian women in all fields through the implementation of the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030, most importantly protecting women from all forms of violence against them. Morsy also noted that integrating women’s rights is an essential pillar for their empowerment and advancement, while thanking all who contributed to the implementation of this significant programme.
US invests $8m in Safe Cities programme
Nicole Shampaine said, “The United States invested $8m in the Safe Cities programme, which laid the foundation for policy reforms, service provision, and national advocacy efforts to criminalize sexual harassment for the first time in Egypt’s history. By working to advance women’s economic and social empowerment, the United States is committed to helping Egypt build an economically stable, sustainable future.”
The US government will continue to support women’s empowerment and economic growth in line with Egypt’s Vision 2030. The Safe Cities project is part of the $30bn that the American people have invested in Egypt through USAID since 1978, Shampaine added.
With the support of USAID, “Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces” and “Prevention and Essential Services” interventions were implemented, under Egypt’s National Strategy to End Violence Against Women, in selected cities across five governorates: Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Minya, and Beni Suef.
A holistic approach was applied to reduce violence against women and girls while providing survivors with adequate legal and psychosocial support and access to safe spaces. Using this approach, the programme expanded access to affordable and quality psychosocial support services and enhanced case management capacities among local CSOs.
The most significant gains in recent years have been the strengthening of core essential response services for women and girls who have experienced violence. Through the strong commitment of NCW and the Ministry of Social Solidarity, national entities have deepened their capacities, and have improved the quality, accessibility, and coordination of provided services. Achievements include the physical upgrade of shelters in selected governorates. National data and knowledge products to enhance the prevention and response to violence against women and girls has also been supported, including up-to-date information on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women in the home.
The programme resulted in the development of a globally award-winning film “Between Two Seas” now streaming on Netflix. The programme worked with civil society at the community level to foster locally-shaped and owned behavioural change, raising awareness on prevention and response, and mobilising greater community-level support for those who come forward to report. Further, and using a unique participatory methodology where local women and community leaders work together, safe public spaces for women, hosting a myriad of activities have been established under the programme in partnership with the National Council for Women and local authorities in Imbaba and Ezbet el Hagganah. The programme also established the country’s first women-friendly market in Zenien creating a safe workplace for hundreds of women vendors and their children and a safe market for thousands of women customers.