Egyptian women have always played a significant role in the history of their country, a fact further evidenced by their effective participation in the events of the 25th January revolution. Women’s participation in this revolution was solely for the sake of Egypt, and for defending the right of all Egyptians to freedom, justice and dignity. They did not march for women’s issues and problems, but rather to defend the future of Egypt and to ensure that the Egyptian people can achieve a renaissance that will make up for all the tyranny they endured and to ensure that women will occupy their proper place in society and not lag behind their counterparts in Western and Arab societies, and that there will be no discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, class, region or any other form.
As the members of the National Council for Women (NCW) look forward to the future, they believe that the spirit of the revolution must prevail amongst all of us as we proceed to build the future of our beloved Egypt. The new NCW aims to carry out its tasks armed with the spirit of the revolution, through integrated voluntary teamwork whose members are willing to cooperate with all the various social forces and orientations devoting their efforts to human development purposes to achieve the principles of the revolution: freedom, dignity and social justice and believing that the Council’s vision and mission for promoting Egyptian women should be guided by these principles.
Egyptian women who participated in the revolution are capable of recognizing that any attempt to limit or marginalize their role contradicts with the logic of life and the movement of history as the future can only be built through all the forces of the community and its social brackets, within a framework of respect for the moral values, the constitution and the law.
1- NCW’s Vision: to improve the human and socio-economic conditions of Egyptian women and to increase the ratio of their participation in the development of their local communities and hence the development of society as a whole.
2- NCW’s Mission: to have an effective partnership and role in formulating policies and programs related to women’s advancement and the sustainability of their development, as well as defining their active roles which support their participation in bringing about the positive transformation of their society at all levels.
3.1 Activate the Council’s mandate and responsibilities in accordance with the Presidential Decree No. 90/2000 establishing the Council, which includes mainstreaming gender issues in the Socio-Economic Development Plan, solving the problems impeding women’s participation in the development of their society and creating an enabling media environment which endeavors to change the image of women and their self-perception as well as the way they are perceived by others through their local communities.
3.2 Assert women’s right and role as citizens participating in the formulation of policies and educational, health, socio-economic, cultural and media plans in order to achieve the advancement and development of society and in ensuring that all citizens benefit from the outcome of these policies.
3.3 Coordinate with and complement the roles of the constitutional institutions, governmental or non-governmental at central and local levels to help achieve the overall objective of these institutions, each within its scope of competence, while paying special attention to the elements which achieve constitutional equality for all citizens in Egypt.
3.4 Review the legislations related to women with a view to amending them to be adapted to the present changes, in addition to taking the necessary measures to formulate new legislations that create an enabling environment for women’s participation in development and to ensure that they benefit from its returns.
3.5 Consolidate the relation between NCW and civil society organizations: NGOs, trade unions, professional syndicates or political parties.
3.6 Spread awareness within the local communities on women’s participation in development.
3.7 Endeavor to create a network of partnerships between NCW and local organizations starting with the village councils through towns and districts up to governorates, to link NCW’s activities with these organizational structures with the aim of benefiting society on the one hand and protecting women from any negative traditional cultural frameworks within their local communities, on the other.
3.8 Endeavor to spread the culture of equality within the society in general, and within the educational, media and cultural institutions in particular.
3.9 Seek to implement the international commitments originating from the international conventions related to women to which Egypt is party.
3.10 Enhance women’s participation in decision-making circles at national and local levels.
3.11 Work closely with local communities and councils to sponsor and implement initiatives related to women.
3.12 Ensure that the issues of promoting women occupy a prominent position in the media and cultural discourse.
- 4 Scope of Activities:
To achieve the above-mentioned objectives, NCW is to carry out a set of integrated activities aimed at promoting the human conditions of women. These activities are divided into five areas according to the priorities related to women’s needs and demands, and based on a holistic vision for contributing to the advancement of the family and society as a whole, in addition to achieving the objectives of the revolution: freedom, justice and dignity.
4-1. Economic empowerment of women:
4.1.1 Helping poor women to integrate into the small enterprises
plan: This entails coordinating with financing institutions such as the Social Fund for Development, Nassir Bank and “Zakat” (alms-giving) institutions etc. while helping these institutions to extend their activities to marginalized villages and urban regions and addressing the obstacles and constraints facing women in this respect.
4.1.2 Supporting training and productive activities. These activities aim to improve women’s economic conditions such as the productive families’ centers, and to encourage new initiatives in this respect. Utmost use should be made of the spatial potentials of NGOs working in development.
4.1.3 Enhancing women’s skills. This activity aims to integrate women into the labor market through providing them with new skills or through engaging female graduates of schools and universities in vocational training. This can be achieved through pursuing the on-going activities of the Women Business Development Center of NCW and its branches, adapting these to the needs of the labor market in each governorate.
4.1.4 Supporting the cooperatives of social services: through establishing cooperatives to offer services, e.g. nurseries, education and health) or through establishing vocational training services.
4-1-5. Investing in women’s productive energies through increasing their participation in the labor market and creating a culture of equality within the labor market so that women would not be ruled out from specific jobs. This can be achieved by providing job opportunities and emphasizing the rule of equal opportunities.
4-2. Education, combating illiteracy and promoting adult education:
4-2-1. Adopting a national project for combating women’s illiteracy. This project can be implemented through cooperation with the General Authority of Illiteracy Eradication and Adult Education, the governorates, the Ministry of Education and the concerned ministries.
4-2-2: Encouraging literacy initiatives: NCW can adopt some initiatives proposed by some citizens in the area of combating illiteracy by providing logistical, technical and financial support and by assisting in evaluating and replicating the experiment.
4-2-3: Dedicating a prize for voluntary work to eradicate illiteracy. This prize aims to encourage civil society organizations to engage in combating illiteracy initiatives.
4-2-4: Limiting the number of female drop-outs from education through providing support to poor families and households headed by women to continue to educate their children.
4-2-5: Integrating people with special needs in the educational process through assisting girls with special needs to continue their education and remove all obstacles hindering them from integrating completely in education.
4-2-6: Emphasizing the culture of equality in educational curricula which should be checked for any kind of discrimination against women or any group. Women should also actively participate in developing educational curricula, and the education system should include human rights curricula.
4-3: Culture and Media
4-3-1: Monitoring the conditions of Egyptian and Arab women. NCW seeks to create databases to record the conditions of Egyptian and Arab women and their historical contributions and issue annual and bi-annual reports on their conditions, related events and challenges they face.
4-3-2: Issuing a women journal. NCW endeavors to develop its publishing channels and to issue an Egyptian woman journal, proposed to be entitled “Contemporary Woman” or “Women Issues” to monitor the daily struggle of women and their achievements, and to link women to the regional and international cultural circles. This journal can be temporarily issued in electronic format.
4-3-3: The annual conference and specialized seminars: NCW holds an annual conference to discuss one of women’s vital issues. It also holds several seminars each year for detailed discussion of specific issues related to women and their community (An annual plan for conferences and seminars will be established by NCW). NCW also participates in conferences relating to women’s issues and held in other places such as universities and research centers or civil society organizations in addition to participating in international conferences.
4-3-4: Improving women’s image in the media: establishing communications channel (dialogue- cooperation protocols- seminars and workshops) to work on improving women’s image in media programs, T.V drama and the media to enhance the culture of equality and jointly work to eliminate the stereotypical image of women. Attention should be paid to portray the real image of women in such media works and assert to the viewers their existence as political and legal professionals.
4-3-5: Studies and evaluation researches: NCW establishes a plan for the accurate monitoring of the situation of women in society and the development of the feminine movement in Egypt. It conducts studies and researches which monitor the issues and problems pertaining to women. These will be used to develop the Council’s activities to improve the quality of its performance and achieve the principle of transparency.
4-3-6: Publicize the creative works of women: NCW publicizes the creative works of women whether in the cultural or social spheres. To achieve this goal, it adopts creative initiatives, holds seminars and workshops to discuss these creative works and organizes competitions to create constructive competition in this respect.
4-3-7: Religious discourse and the culture of equality: Focus should be paid to studying the image of women as portrayed in the religious discourse. NCW is to cooperate with Al-Azhar, Dar El Ifta and civil society organizations to assert the correct religious perceptions related to women and disseminate them through an enlightened religious discourse.
4-4: Participation and political awareness-raising
4-4-1: Women’s participation in the formulation of all forms of legislations (constitutional, legislations or regulations) should be supported.
4-4-2: Enhancing women’s political participation: NCW is to work to introduce new legislations to the elections of the People’s Assembly, The Shura Council, local councils, student unions, labor syndicates, sports clubs and associations to apply the proportional lists system in these elections (not less than 30%).
4-4-3: Women’s political and civil education: a civil and political educational program is to be offered to women to raise their awareness of the importance of participation, volunteer work and the culture of equality.
4-4-4: Enhancing women’s role in leadership and decision-making circles: Through highlighting the success stories of women in all spheres of life and helping women overcome the administrative problems they face in their way to assume leadership positions.
4-5: Social and legal protection
4-5-1: Spreading awareness on women’s rights through organizing training sessions to acquaint people with women’s roles, rights and duties and enhance their capabilities to contribute to political participation.
4-5-2: Social and health insurance: Seeking to extend the health insurance umbrella to women heads of households, working women in the informal sector, rural women and housewives.
4-5-3: Helping working women: through encouraging the civil society and governmental and production institutions to provide the social services which support working women such as proper means of transportation and nurseries.
4-5-4: Addressing women’s complaints: Developing work at women’s Ombudsman’s office and its branches in the governorates, and creating communications channels to solve and analyze women’s problems and extract outcomes which help understand and solve women’s problems.
5- Work Mechanisms: Using a modus operandi that translates the above activities into detailed programs and implementing them. The most important mechanisms that can be used are as follows:
5-1: Coordination and cooperation: NCW is not so much of an implementing body, but rather a national institution concerned with women’s issues that defends these issues and coordinates work to improve women’s conditions. Therefore, the first working mechanism of NCW is to propose ideas and initiatives organize and coordinate these.
5-2: Partnerships: NCW cannot accomplish its mission alone; it has to have the ability to reach out and network with other bodies, the most important of which are:
a- The civil society: The civil society is considered one of the most important partners of NCW in carrying out its duties. NCW expects a good and effective contribution from the civil society in implementing and supporting its activities.
b- The government: especially the governmental sectors which affect women’s conditions such as education, culture, media and health.
c- Legislative bodies: the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council.
d- Local agencies: governors and local councils and agencies.
e- Political parties: it is hoped that political parties will help NCW outlining women’s demands and raising them to decision-making circles.
f- Religious institutions: These institutions can assist in spreading the correct religious discourse and understanding of women’s status and problems within the proper cultural framework.
g- The private sector: It can contribute to financing projects carried out by the civil society or the government within a framework of the corporate social responsibility.
5-3 Constant monitoring and evaluation: NCW relies on the mechanism of monitoring and evaluation of its activities to adapt these to the changing conditions and to demands of Egyptian women. It is preferable that these evaluations come from independent bodies (civilian or international) to achieve the utmost degree of neutrality and objectivity.
5-4: Networking: NCW creates networks for information through providing the electronic site of the Council with complete and updated databases on women’s issues at national and international levels. It also creates positive and constructive communications with all the actors involved in women’s issues at the civil, governmental and local levels. Towards this end, it encourages the civil society to establish networks for women’s care and protection while supporting them technically and financially. NCW can also create focal points in specific areas or for specific groups of women such as poor women, women heads of households and minor wives etc. or at certain local levels to strengthen the process of communications and networking.
5-5: Political and cultural dialogue: This is one of the most important mechanisms which support communications with the political power structures, civil society organizations, the government and the intellectuals to increase the space of common understanding of women’s social and political issues. It boosts work towards achieving NCW’s mission of improving women’s social conditions.
5-6: Community participation: NCW supports community participation through encouraging individuals and groups within villages and rural communities to offer initiatives and clearly formulate their needs and demands, in addition to actively participate in planning, implementing and evaluating projects.
The board of NCW is assisted by 11 Standing Committees to provide advice in their respective areas of expertise. These are: