UN Women and ILO hold the 4th annual meeting of the regional Joint Strategic Coordination Committee for the Work for Women programme

by Asmaa Elwahy

Cairo – Within the framework of the Joint Programme[1] “Promoting Productive Employment and Decent Work for Women in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine” (Work4Women), generously funded by the Government of Sweden and the Swedish International Development Agency, UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States and the ILO’s Regional Office for the Arab States jointly held the fourth Joint Programme Strategic Coordination Committee (JPSCC) on Wednesday, 23rd November 2022, in Cairo, Egypt.

Hosted by the National Council for Women and the Ministry of Manpower in Egypt, the meeting of the regional JPSCC was convened to share knowledge between governments, development partners, workers’ and employers’ organizations, civil society organizations and UN agencies in the three countries. The meeting provided a forum for updates and discussions on the programme’s progress and results achieved to date in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine, including a variety of research produced by the programme that can facilitate decision-makers’ development of effective policy solutions. The meeting highlighted the need for deeper engagement to understand and address women’s economic empowerment issues among all partners.

The JPSCC is considered as the highest body for strategic guidance and coordination within the JP. It is also regional in its remit, covering all three participating countries in the programme, and is responsible for ensuring that all of the JP’s objectives are met as defined in the programme’s documents, and that the programme ultimately meets the needs of all stakeholders.

The meeting was attended by H.E. Dr. Maya Morsy, President of Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW); H.E. Håkan Emsgård, Ambassador of Sweden to Egypt; Ms. Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, Regional Director of UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States, and Mr. Eric Oechslin, Country Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for Egypt and Eritrea, and the Decent Work Team for North Africa.

The Ministry of Manpower confirmed that by participating in the programme to “Promoting Productive Employment and Decent Work in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine”, and by supporting the Gender Equality Unit, the Ministry’s plan was accordingly further expanded and amplified to cover directorates in the governorates of Egypt. The institutional capacities of the Unit’s personnel and branches, as well as labour inspectors, have been upgraded, and trainers have been prepared to cover the training needs of provincial directorates. Additionally, the Ministry is also supporting the issuance of the Gender Sensitivity Inspectors’ Manual, and is collaborating in the establishment of a website for the Equality Unit that should be launched soon.

Dr. Maya Morsy, said that “the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030, approved by H.E. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt in 2017, includes the pillar of women’s economic empowerment, aiming to develop their capacities to expand their employment options, achieve equal opportunities in the employment of women in all sectors and increase their participation. NCW has developed policies supporting the role of women in the labor market such as the “Closing Gender Gap Accelerator” in cooperation with the Ministry of International Cooperation, the first model of its kind for public-private cooperation in Africa and the Middle East region. Facilitating women’s active participation in the economic life is an urgent priority on the national agenda, which requires well-formulated legislation and policies, innovative solutions and sustainable partnerships, as well as a shift in the general culture of institutions and in the mentality of both men and women.”

Speaking on behalf of UN Women, Ms. Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen highlighted that “by adopting a holistic approach to the programme’s implementation, UN Women builds on its expertise and global leadership for gender equality, and particularly within the area of women’s economic empowerment in the Arab States. In 2022, women’s employment and income-generation opportunities continue to be negatively affected by the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19: women have borne 41% of job losses in the Arab world even though they constitute less than 20% of the workforce on average. Advancing women’s employment, inclusion and economic access is considered a necessity and a critical steppingstone towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Concurrently, Mr. Eric Oechslin said “I am very pleased with the Joint Programme’s results, which prove how joint coalitions between UN offices that are guided by the support of our national partners and tripartite constituents are essential to promoting social justice and gender mainstreaming in workplaces. This joint effort presents itself as an opportunity to benefit women and men equally, and therefore inequality is not perpetuated. Essentially, and in return, the programme’s agenda will ultimately contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitment of “leaving no one behind”, which is relevant to the Organization’s social justice mandate and standard-setting agenda.” In his word, Mr. Oechslin emphasized that through this successful partnership, the ILO aligns itself with the needs and demands of constituents, as reflected in the gender-transformative interventions that aim to deliver structural and institutional changes needed in the world of work.

H.E. Håkan Emsgård, underscored that “Women represent 40 percent of the global labour force. Holding back gender equality simply means holding back development and prosperity”.

The Work4Women programme aims to achieve three interlinked and mutually supportive pillars of results; which are gender responsive labour laws and related policies that are in place and effective; a supported gender responsive private sector that attracts, retains and promotes women; and challenging gender stereotypes about women and men’s responsibilities concerning unpaid care and household work.

[1] The UNW/ ILO Joint Programme advocates for gender responsive labour laws and policies, a gender responsive private sector and the elimination of stereotypes around unpaid care and household work.

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