Egypt has made great progress over past decade to empower women: Canada’s International Development Minister

Mohamed Samir
13 Min Read

Canadian Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan conducted a visit to Egypt, where he met with several Egyptian ministers and officials to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations and other topics of common interest.

On the side-lines of his visit, Sajjan visited several villages of the Decent Life Presidential Initiative. He told Daily News Egypt (DNE) that he was extremely impressed with the level of detail and the work that government is doing to implement this initiative in the most vulnerable areas, adding that it is for the betterment of the country and that it was foster economic growth. But more importantly, it sends a very strong message of hope.

DNE sat down with Sajjan to discuss how Canada and Egypt can further boost cooperation in tackling climate change, promoting women empowerment, and improving food security.

Can you tell us more about the outcomes of your meeting with the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs? What are the prospects of cooperation between Egypt and Canada regarding the COP27?

I got to meet with many ministers, and one of the things that we want to take a look at is bringing more synergy to the work that we do together. To look at what I wanted to see is to hear what Egypt’s vision is in terms of whether it’s for the impact of climate change, where it comes to the agricultural sector, and other programmes.

So, what that allows us to do is look at where Canada can best help. So, when it comes directly to the upcoming UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP27), I was very happy to hear when the Egyptian government said that it wants to take a leading role in implementation. Pledges are one thing, but implementation is key.

That is something that Canada fully supports, something that I personally support, and it’s one of the reasons why I go on field visits. I want to see first-hand the impact. We can easily talk about millions, billions, or trillions of dollars, but at the end of the day, how are we impacting people’s lives?

So, that is something I am very keen on, and I’m very happy to see that Egypt has taken that role. And we’re going to take a look at where we’re going when it comes to women empowerment in the agricultural sector; we’re going to be looking at the health sector as well. So, we’re looking at many different things we can work on, but our teams will now come together to figure out what that plan is going to be.

How is Canada supporting Egypt’s hosting of the COP27?

Canada will be hosting its first pavilion at the COP27 and will use this opportunity to show Canadian climate action, amplify global efforts and support for developing countries, and support the Egyptian presidency’s priorities.

Canada doubled its international climate finance commitment to $5.3bn over the coming five years (2021-2026) to support developing countries’ transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient, nature-positive, and inclusive sustainable development.

Canada recognises the economic challenges that developing countries face to mitigate the causes and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and is committed to doing its part to support climate change action around the world.

At least 80% of climate finance projects will integrate gender equality considerations recognising women and girls as powerful agents of change as per Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.

Canada has stepped up its own efforts with an ambitious target of reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030, as well as achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Canada has also committed to a domestic coal phase-out by 2030.

How do you view the Decent Life Presidential Initiative and how can Canada support this initiative?

I was very impressed to hear that there is such an initiative. Sometimes you hear initiatives that sound good, but you don’t see the implementation. And when I finished speaking with the Minister of Social Solidarity, I was extremely impressed with the level of detail and the work that they’re doing to implement this in the most vulnerable areas.

And when I heard about the work that’s taking place, there are so many different variables within a country. Each region is also going to be different. And so, when I heard about — you know — there’s vulnerable, then there’s even vulnerable within vulnerable.

So, for example, I saw from some officials a passion for supporting the disabled. And more importantly, I saw that myself when I conducted my field visit as well, the empowerment of women who are also disabled.

So, I’m very hopeful that this programme is not only going to have an impact — it’s when you look at a nation, the bigger plans for economic growth, it’s easy for us to talk about.

But when you see the most vulnerable feeling that they’re being uplifted at the same time, then you know that that the nation is going to grow together and that this is such a strong message to send, especially in this region. Because other nations where you don’t have the opportunities — or the vulnerable don’t have the opportunity — they are easily susceptible to organised crime and radical views, and that can lead to instability.

So, this programme is for the betterment of the country and fosters its economic growth. But more importantly, it sends a very strong message of hope.

Egypt has made great progress over past decade to empower women: Canada’s International Development Minister
Canadian Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan

We need to know more about Canada’s role in promoting gender equality and female empowerment in the region?

Egypt has made great progress over the past decade to empower women. From launching its first National Strategy for the Empowerment of Women to committing to reach equality between men and women in economic, social, and political affairs by 2030, there is lot to be proud of and a lot of work left to be done.

Canada will continue to work with Egypt to achieve women’s economic empowerment by developing women’s capacities to enhance their employment options, support their entrepreneurship, and expand their participation in the workforce.

Gender equality and female empowerment are priority areas for Canada, as women are major drivers and beneficiaries of poverty reduction and eradication.

Since the 1970s, Canada has continued to build on its definitions and policies for gender equality and female empowerment in international assistance.

Then in 2017, Canada launched its Feminist International Assistance Policy, which seeks to apply a feminist approach across all of its international policies and programming, including diplomacy, trade, security, development, and consular services.

From 2015 to 2020, almost half of Canadian investments in MENA targeted the promotion of gender equality and female empowerment, totalling over $463m in international assistance to the region, with the largest investments going towards education.

Canadian programmes in Egypt focus primarily on mentoring and training for business and livelihood support, strengthening girls education, increasing institutions’ gender awareness and tailoring services, and raising awareness on rights and family planning.

Canada’s development priorities in Egypt include advancing the rights of women and girls, supporting inclusive growth, socio-economic development and poverty reduction, and promoting climate change adaptation and mitigation.

For example, we are contributing $5m in a collaboration with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) towards addressing gaps in reproductive health. We are also working with partners on the ground to strengthen women entrepreneurs in Egypt with a contribution of over $5m.

Can you elaborate on the ongoing cooperation between Canada and Egypt in food and water security?

Canada is also currently funding a project with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) named ‘Improved Livelihoods, Nutrition, and Empowerment of Rural Women and their Families’, which aims to improve equitable access to gender-sensitive and nutritious food for populations from ten of the poorest villages in Minya affected by COVID-19.

It also seeks to reduce COVID-19 related barriers to carrying out smallholder horticultural production and agro-food processing activities while enhancing food system resilience for exiting the COVID-19 crisis and building back better in light of present and future climate change and food insecurity challenges.

Furthermore, Canada doubled its international climate finance commitment to $5.3bn over five years (2021-2026) to support developing countries’ transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient, nature-positive, and inclusive sustainable development. A few initiatives in Egypt funded through this commitment are under review.

I am also pleased to announce that Canada will work with Egypt to approve a new $10m initiative in Egypt in partnership with the FAO as part of Canada’s Climate Finance Programme.

This initiative will promote the adoption of climate smart-agriculture and agricultural bio-diversity practices to enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable rural communities in Upper Egypt (Aswan) and Lower Egypt (Beheira and Kafr El-Sheikh).

Can you tell us more about Canada’s possible role in boosting energy transition in Egypt and Africa?

Canada’s support for clean energy in Africa includes contributions of $1bn to the Climate Investment Funds – Accelerating Coal Transition (CIF – ACT) investment programme.

This programme aims to accelerate the transition from coal-powered to clean energy while ensuring a holistic, integrated, socially-inclusive, and gender-equal just transition in recipient countries, including South Africa for the first phase of the project.

Canada has also allocated $132.9m to the Canada-African Development Bank Climate Fund. This new fund will allow for gender-responsive climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in developing African countries. Canada’s contribution will enhance women’s economic rights and participation in climate action and mobilise private capital to fill the gap in climate investment in Africa.

Additionally, we have contributed $150m to the G7 African Renewable Energy Initiative. This funding will unlock the renewable energy potential in Africa through leveraging private sector investment in sectors such as solar, hydro, and wind power.

Additionally, Canada has signed two deals — a loan of $25m to scale up clean energy production capacity in Gabon, which will result in the construction of the Kinguele Aval hydropower plant, and  a $10M loan to expand solar power generation in off-grid areas of Nigeria, which is expected to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by over 32,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum and decrease local air pollution.

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Mohamed Samir Khedr is an economic and political journalist, and analyst specialising in geopolitical conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. Over the past decade, he covered Egypt's and the MENA region's financial, business, and geopolitical updates. He is currently the Executive Editor of the Daily News Egypt. Twitter: LinkedIn: