In a move to push for women’s rights and gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa, and in collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Sweden has committed more than EGP85 million for activities that support gender equality and women´s rights in the coming three years, 2015 – 2017. This new programme will be coordinated by UN Women´s regional office in Cairo and be implemented with key stakeholders, civil society partners, government officials and community leaders.
The Swedish grant will facilitate strategic collaborations, research and advocacy at the regional level and offer substantial support to organisations and movements that work to empower women and foster gender equality in Egypt, Libya, Palestine and Morocco. The programme aims at strengthening civil society in the region to work with governments on implementing laws and policies that protect women and promote their rights.
“The programme will make a conscious effort of engaging men and boys, of challenging traditional views of masculinity and of recognising men and boys as partners in the GEWE agenda”, says Mohammad Naciri, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women Office for the Arab region.
The programme will encourage research on perception studies on how women and men view their own rights and roles in their respective communities. Recognising the many advancements already made, the programme will focus on community-based solutions, taking a bottom up approach and promoting inter-regional exchanges of best practices and dialogue.
“Gender inequality is not only an issue about or for women. It concerns everyone and is a deterrent to development, and thus must involve both women and men, and boys as well as girls. Gender equality takes time. Political will and leadership as well as adequate resources are essential to effectively combat gender disparities and promote gender equality”, says Charlotta Sparre, Sweden’s Ambassador in Egypt.
The programme comes at a much-needed time in the region, which continues to rank the lowest on gender equality indexes. According to the gender gap report, MENA hold the lowest position in the overall index score, having closed 59 per cent of its gender gap. The region is also ranked least in terms of closing the political gender gap (7 per cent) and economic gender gap (39 per cent).
Women and girls face violence both in the private and public spheres, with rates of domestic violence running high – though shadow figures are hard to come by. Early-forced marriage is still a reality for many girls, and sexual harassment is a factor that hinders women for actively participating in public life.
The new grant means that Sweden is becoming one of the biggest donors to the support of women in the region, and the single biggest donor to UN Women´s regional office in Cairo.
29 November 2014