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CAIRO – 25 June 2017: In preparation for Eid al-Fitr the National Council for Women (NCW) announced that they will operate 24-hours to receive complaints from women during the holiday period. According to a statement released Thursday on the NCW’s official Facebook page, there will be a dedicated operations room administered by the council’s Women’s Complaints Office to receive grievances regarding harassment and offer legal aid to girls and women.
Egypt Today interviewed Salma Mostafa Abdel Latif, a social worker at the NCW Women’s Complaints Office, to learn more about the organization’s work to mitigate, prevent and respond to violence against women.
ET: When was the Women’s Complaints Office at the NCW established?
NCW: The Women’s Complaints Office was founded in conjunction with the NCW in 2000. The NCW was established by Presidential Decree No. 90 of 2000 as an independent institution directly affiliated to the president. The office receives the complaints of girls and women related to cases of domestic violence, violence in the workplace, sexual violence and personal issues such as marriage and divorce.
The Women’s Complaints Office represents the vision of the NCW, which aims to empower Egyptian women and support their efficient participation in society by developing policies on female empowerment and advocating for their integration into the state’s social and economic development plans.
The council also reviews existing laws from a gender perspective and proposes amendments to guarantee that they are free of any discrimination against girls and women.
ET: What forms of violence is the Women’s Complaints Office concerned with?
NCW: The NCW Women’s Complaints Office divides violence against girls and women into the following categories: societal violence, domestic violence, sexual violence and violence within the workplace.
ET: What type of complaints and applications do you receive?
NCW: We receive girls’ and women’s complaints related to the previously mentioned forms of violence.
We also receive complaints related to the workplace such as arbitrary dismissal, harassment or discrimination against women and lack of application of labor law with regards to women’s rights such as maternity leave.
Furthermore, we receive applications for social assistance such as pensions and issuing national identification for financially and/or physically unable women. The Office provides support to women on both social and legal levels.
ET: Who can file complaints to the Office? Are the services you offer free of charge?
NCW: All girls and women above 18 years are eligible. Cases under 18 fall under the responsibility of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood. The office receives complainants free of charge and provides free services to all Egyptian girls and women.
ET: What are the procedures that you follow when dealing with complaints?
NCW: The social worker receives the complaint and provides ‘psychological first aid’ support to the complainant if necessary. Then the legal support phase begins, whether by providing a lawyer to represent the case to the judiciary or legal advice to the complainant.
If the complaint is related to violations at the workplace then the office will work to resolve it in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance’s ‘Equal Opportunities Units’ that are situated in each national governorate.
ET: Do you only operate in Cairo?
NCW: No, the council has a branch in each governorate and each branch has a dedicated Women’s Complaints Office to facilitate access to services and reduce the financial burden on complainants. In addition, complaints can be sent to the main office in Cairo from any governorate and the head office will distribute them to the concerned governorates.
ET: Who are the main contacts that you coordinate with?
NCW: There is constant contact with the Interior Ministry's unit to combat violence against women. We coordinate with them on violence complaints and also with the unit’s operations rooms for national holidays, such as the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday.
We also coordinate with a number of international and United Nations agencies including the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN WOMEN) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). We collaborate with these agencies on capacity enhancement trainings and orientation on new protocols related to the response to violence against girls and women.
Employees receive regular training in various fields to enhance their capacity, particularly in the areas of psychological support and dealing with the media.
ET: Does the Women’s Complaint Office exclusively deal with all received cases or do you refer some cases to other organizations?
NCW: All social support services are provided by specialized social workers utilizing the office’s manual and guidelines on dealing with female victims and survivors of violence.
In terms of legal support, some cases are referred to a network of volunteer lawyers covering all governorates to financially and/or physically unable women.
We also refer cases to the partner hospitals of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, and some cases concerning the elderly are referred to retirement homes.
The Women’s Complaints Office has signed memorandums of understanding with relevant Ministries to refer cases for services and support that the office can not solely provide in that particular circumstance.
ET: What about cases that require security protection, how do you handle them?
NCW: Cases that require security protection are referred to women’s shelters after security screening. In Egypt there are eight shelters under the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) or affiliated with civil society organizations subject to the supervision of the MoSS. The shelters are distributed among the following governorates: Cairo, Giza, Qalyubia, Alexandria, Mansoura, Beni Suef, Fayoum and Minya.
ET: How many complaints did the Office receive in 2016? What type of complaints?
NCW: The council issues annual reports that include the total number of complaints received during the year and their classifications. In 2016, we received 5,414 complaints. The highest numbers of complaints were personal status complaints at 1,971, followed by 978 social security applications, 342 violence-related complaints and 284 complaints regarding discrimination in the work place.
ET: What are your preparations for the Eid al-Fitr holiday?
NCW: National holidays witness a peak in harassment and molestation of girls and women, especially in public and crowded places. The Women’s Complaints Office will dedicate a 24-hour operations room during the Eid period.
The operations room will have three main roles: 1) to receive complaints about harassment against girls and women; 2) monitor and verify information circulated through social media platforms on harassment; and 3) to ensure the presence of lawyers from the office in the field alongside police forces to monitor cases of harassment and provide assistance to girls and women who file lawsuits against perpetrators.
The operations room will have branches operating throughout all national governorates and will coordinate with the human rights department in the Ministry of Interior and their unit specializing in combating violence against women.
ET: What are the available means for girls and women to file their complaints?
NCW: Girls and women can file harassment complaints via email at email@example.com.
They can also call the complaints office on 01007525600 and hotline at 15115.
Furthermore, they can communicate with the office through the NCW official Facebook page or they can personally visit us.
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