Minister Sahar Nasr (L) and OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos during the forum opening.
CAIRO – 7 October 2017: Women need five main principles to achieve equality: self appreciation, freedom of choice, opportunity assessment, self-decision of destiny and social empowerment, Sweden’s ambassador to Algeria Marie-Claire Sward Capra said during the opening ceremony of a forum in Cairo Saturday.
She added that women are a key player in the process of sustainable development and that more women must take part of the decision-making process.
This came during the opening ceremony of a two-day forum, organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to present the findings of a report it prepared on women empowerment in the Middle East and to discuss solutions to achieve gender equality.
Capra said that there are four pillars to empower women including developing their professional capacity, economic and social empowerment as well as protection.
“Gender equality is not women’s issue. It’s a bottom line that defines a country’s competitiveness and thus readiness for sustainable development,” she said.
She further added that the OECD’s vision of gender equality is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.
Displaying figures from the report, OECD Chief of Staff, Gabriela Ramos, said that women’s share of the labor market in OECD countries in 2016 is 60.3 percent, recording a gender gap of 20 percent, while women’s share of the labor market in the MENA region is 24 percent in the same year.
She added that 31 percent of men in MENA are entrepreneurs, while the percentage is only 2.6 for women.
The report is titled “Women’s Economic Empowerment in Selected MENA countries: The impact of legal frameworks in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia”.
Ramos said that progress in gender equality is weak globally and that the gender gap persists on political, economic and educational levels.
Lebanese Minister of State for Women’s Affairs, Jean Oghassabian, said that his ministry was founded in 2016 by the new government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, out of a strong belief in women’s potential.
“If we as men impede women empowerment, we are causing loss to our country,” the minister said during the forum.
“I would like to express my appreciation for all struggling Arab women, especially Palestinian women who struggle for freedom and independence,” Oghassabian added.
To show respect, the Lebanese minister left the podium to bend for women.
Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation and Investment, Sahar Nasr, stated that the rates of women failing to pay back loans are much lower than men and thus they are most eligible for microfinance.
“Our aim is to increase women’s share in microfinance to 50 percent as a start. In some countries, it hits 90 percent,” Nasr said.
Nasr added that although Egypt has currently four female ministers, out of 33, they are in charge of crucial ministries and files.
Besides Nasr, the other three female ministers are the Minister of Planning Hala el-Said, Minister of Immigration and Expatriates Affairs Nabila Makram and Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly.