ENID/El Nidaa Third Annual Conference, 13 February 2016.
On “The Role Of Women in Sustainable Rural Development.”
Gender Inequality inhibits social and economic growth. This is a fact, supported by research across the developing world. In Egypt, rural women continue to face impediments to social and economic participation, as well as challenges in the cultural framework that lead to persistent problems. ENID/El Nidaa Third Annual Conference in Luxor on Saturday 13 February will address these issues, with a special focus on the plight of rural women of Upper Egypt.
Most of the country’s rural poor people live in Upper Egypt, where there are higher rates of illiteracy – especially among women – and higher rates of infant mortality, and a larger number of underweight children. Social norms about gender roles are restrictive. In these conservative communities the belief is that women’s opportunities outside the household are not necessary for the family’s wellbeing. While it has been recorded that women are known to contribute disproportionately to unpaid work within the household for around one to three hours more per day than men caring for children, the elderly and the sick, women have one to four hours less per day to devote to employment. And yet, employment is crucial, not only because it provides extra income to the household, but because it provides women the opportunity to develop self-confidence and higher rates of participation with the community. But employment opportunities are lacking because of the limited development of microenterprises or other non-farm economic activity.
The ENID/El Nidaa Conference will explore both the social and economic spheres of rural women in the South to find innovative solutions to development. These two fronts must be addressed simultaneously in order to effectively enhance the wellbeing of rural women, because if the social status and equity of women improves, both the social status of the family and its economic status will improve. Additionally, it is a fundamental condition to achieve a prosperous society as a whole in Upper Egypt.
Among the recommendation to be explored at the conference are the means by which to raise the quality of maternal care and socialize the provision of childcare, especially at preschool level, through recipient participation. A similar successful “Best Practice” policy was effectively introduced in Jordan. Other areas that need to be addressed include nutrition, and reproductive health. Promoting the social sphere for women involves effective implementation of state social protection schemes targeted at the poor. Social protection and pension programs must also be assessed for their impact. A new social pension and transfer program was launched by the Egyptian government in 2014 to address poverty and deprivation. Karama (dignity) is a cash transfer program provided to the elderly and severely handicapped. Takaful (welfare) targets poor families with children with four annual stipends. As noted by Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity, the critical step forward to enhance these social safety programs is to implement the necessary mechanisms to enhance the quality of the services on the ground and to identify the beneficiaries that are most vulnerable through better targeting systems.