Egypt may be one of the worst countries for gender equality* in the world, but women made historic gains in the country’s most recent parliamentary elections.
There are now 89 female MPs in office, occupying 15% of the total available seats, and young campaigners have been working with them to take an active role in decisions that affect their lives.
Plan International is committed to achieving goal 5 of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, part of which involves ending FGM and child marriage by 2030 and this initiative is helping to make this ambition a reality in Egypt.
“Gender-based discrimination is one of the main factors crippling the fulfilment of the sustainable development goals,” says Mai, 22, who has been in discussions with parliamentarians as part of the campaign. “Together with members of parliament, I’m hoping to ensure the gender equality in all policy and law-making processes.”
Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) globally, with 9 in 10 girls and women having been circumcised despite the practice being illegal for almost a decade. Around a third of Egyptian women have also been married before the age of 18.
Promoting social justice through gender equality
Another young campaigner, Marwa, 26, has witnessed many of her friends being pulled out of school and forced into marriage. “By guaranteeing that members of parliament understand the problems girls are facing and how young people feel about this issues, we’ll change the law so that forced marriage is a thing of the past,” she says.
I perceive this as a huge step towards achieving gender equality.
In May 2016, Mai and Marwa and other young campaigners participated in a two-day workshop targeting female MPs organised by Plan International Egypt together with the National Council of Women and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Attendees included 30 female parliamentarians, 18 young people from across Egypt, media professionals and experts on law and legislation.
The event featured an in-depth discussion on gender-sensitive budgeting as one of the tools to promote social justice and participants spent time in groups discussing the draft proposals of six laws. “The workshop was a step forward to ensuring gender-sensitive budgeting processes are in place,” says Sara, 23, one of the young women who attended. “I perceive this as a huge step towards achieving gender equality.”
At a another event, held in October, young Egyptians joined MPs and senior government officials in developing an action plan designed to enforce the country’s law banning FGM, gradually eliminate early marriage and promote gender-sensitive education.
The event organisers did encounter some challenges. For example, there was some resistance from government officials towards the idea of engaging young people in the decision-making process, and parents of some young people, especially girls, were reluctant to allow their daughters to take part in activities with the opposite sex.
“It’s still at a very early stage but we are starting to create the space where we can act as a convenor between the local parliamentarians and other actors in government and some of the voices from our communities,” says Ruairi McDermott, country director for Plan International Egypt.
“We’re just getting started though,” he adds. “These MPs have a duty to promote the role of Egyptian girls and women in economic and socially sustainable development.”
Take a look at the new girl-led campaign for gender equality:
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