In addition to its support for project work and policy dialogue, the EBRD’s Gender team also commissions research and takes an active part in the international debate on the promotion of gender equality.
In 2014 we commissioned a report, Enhancing Women’s Economic Empowerment in the EBRD’s Operations through Voice, Agency and Participation, examining the influence of legal pluralism and social norms in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. The report’s main objective is to provide recommendations on designing project interventions at the Bank that are more reflective and responsive to women’s strategic and practical needs, while contributing overall to the enhancement of women’s voice, agency and participation in social and economic life within the specific contexts of these countries.
These five countries were selected, not only because of shared cultural similarities and Islamic heritage, but also because they co-exist in a region with the lowest women’s labour force participation and economic activity in the world. This is despite high levels of literacy and advances in health, and is what the World Bank has termed the “MENA paradox”. As our study shows, social norms, institutional barriers and discrimination embedded in plural legal frameworks are behind this paradox. As a result, women’s access to economic opportunities that might otherwise raise their voice and influence in society is particularly hindered in this region. The study was designed to align with the inclusive growth paradigm: equal access to opportunities for all members of society, taking into account their specific needs.
Initial findings and analysis were presented to various stakeholders in 2014, including the Multilateral Development Banks Working Group on Gender, the Development Finance Institutions Meeting of Social Experts, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and internal departments at the Bank. The full publication is expected to be available in early 2015.
This paper examines the ECWR’s multi-faceted campaign to combat sexual harassment from 2005 to 2008. A timeline of the organization’s major events during this period is presented in Table 1. In examining the campaign mobilization, its framing of the issue, and its tactical repertoire, theoretical insight comes primarily from the literature on high-risk social movements (specifically those in authoritarian environments) and movements with cultural targets. We also draw from research on women’s organization in non-Western contexts and the role of globalization in creating awareness of women’s status in different societies.
When President Mohammed Morsi stood before the United Nations this year, he was asked about the status of women in his country and confronted with international concern regarding their status and the challenges they face. He responded to these concerns, saying that “Egyptian women have the same rights as men. There even are some men who ask to be guaranteed the same rights as women!”
Of course the President was joking. However, recent data shows the severity of the situation for women in Egypt and reveals Egypt to be first in the world as far as the deterioration of women’s rights. Those in attendance were not receptive to Morsi’s joke, finding this humor an inappropriate response to a very serious issue. The delegation hoped that President Morsi could present a plan outlining the methods and procedures intended to advance the position of women in Egypt as the first elected president after a revolution that demanded justice and equality.
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights compiled this year’s status report on the status of Egyptian women but faced a number of challenges during the research process. The most notable of these challenges was the scarcity of information and statistics portraying the situation of women. Most writings expressed admiration for Egyptian women and their presence in society and astonishment at their participation in public work, from which they were absent for decades.
As for the approved research institutions, they are, like Egypt as a whole, facing many problems that made the intellectual production and monitoring so modest compared with the previous years. Therefore, there are neither statistics nor sufficient analytical writings available to help us. The center, like many human rights and women’s organizations in Egypt, was also under intense pressure from the Ministry of Social Affairs. The approval of many of the center’s programs was delayed by disagreements and attempts to limit the NGO’s activities or paralyze them. This situation made the report dependent upon a limited number of researchers who exerted tremendous efforts in research and documentation. The center hopes to introduce a useful report on Egyptian Women in 2012 despite these challenges.