Cairo University, Grand Celebrations Hall
23 September 2021
Ambassador Christian Berger,
Head of the EU Delegation to Egypt
Gender equality is at the core of the European Union's values and the EU is known as a driving force that promotes and protects women's rights. We are committed toward that end, within and outside the Union. Violence against women (VAW) is not only a violation of women and girls’ human rights, but it is also detrimental to the welfare, wellbeing, and development of any society. VAW must not have a place anywhere in our world.
An education system free from inequality and discrimination is the key for empowering young women and men to build their future on an equal footing. Education institutions such as our host today, the Cairo University, shape new generations capable of contributing to inclusive sustainable development. While the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected gender equality and has led to increased violence against women, our hopes are relying on all the young women and men looking for a rewarding professional and life perspective in an environment free of gender-based violence. Women empowerment and protection from violence has become an important component of the ‘EU 4 Egypt's immediate socio-economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak’.
Today’s event provides us with an excellent opportunity to reaffirm our joint commitment to support programmes and initiatives responding to VAW and empower women and girls as actors of change. We commend the University, the National Council for Women (NCW), line ministries and civil society for their commitment and actions toward gender equality. Support to gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment have been on top of the EU priorities in Egypt. Egypt has also benefited from EU support through global actions (UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme for Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – currently channelled through the global Spotlight initiative) as well as from regional actions. The EU gender related programmes support women’s political and socio-economic empowerment, and together with many other partners combat gender-based violence.
The EU supports important national flagship initiatives: National Women’s Citizenship Initiative, Financial and Digital Inclusion Programme, Safe Cities Programme (combating gender based violence), and a series of bilateral actions that support the National Strategy for Eradicating FGM, as well as knock on doors campaigns. In all of this we pursue an holistic approach through which women and girls have benefited from EU funded programmes in different sectors like access to education, Technical Education and Vocational Training, family planning, inclusive growth, and rural development. It is our obligation now that 85% of EU cooperation must address gender equality/women and girls’ empowerment as principal or key objective.
The ‘Violence against women and girls free campuses project’ is a component of the Citizens’ Rights programme engaging CSOs (9 projects for EUR 3.5 million) at combating VAW and supporting women empowerment in 13 Egypt governorates, aiming at building the capacities of grassroots organisations to reach and involve local communities in cooperation with the private sector and development institutions.
Women empowerment and prevention of VAW is mutually reinforcing. In cooperation with Cairo University and the UN Women Office, as well as the National Council for Women, through the regional programme ‘Spring Forward for Women’, the EU was the earliest supporter for launching the first of its kind ‘Gender and Development Master’ degree.
Our partner, The British Council, has developed further activities based on the results of our previous cooperation with the Cairo University’s Unit for addressing VAW. In the framework of our partnership with the UN Women, the EU funded project ‘Securing Rights and Improving Livelihoods of Women’ which ended in 2017, was part of the early efforts to support the capacities of the Unit and engage activities with students to promote awareness against gender based violence and support survivors of violence. According to the ‘Report on the National Strategy to eliminate violence against women 2015-2020’, published by the NCW in 2021, we see the intensive efforts to ensure a sustainable mechanism for addressing VAW in universities. The EU is looking forward to continue cooperation with Egypt in this important domain.
Coming to higher education, through Erasmus+ the European Union in cooperation with Cairo University supports a wide range of activities in the fields of education, training, youth and sport. In particular in the period 2014-2020 the University has taken part in 10 capacity building higher education projects on curriculum development, governance reform, and higher education and society. Erasmus+ aims at boosting the job prospects and personal development of young people, as well as helping education, training and youth systems to deliver teaching and learning that gives people the skills they need in today’s labour market and society, and to better grasp the opportunities of the future. The new programme of Erasmus+ will run from 2021 to 2027.
Civil society and mass media play also a very important role in raising awareness and shaping behaviours. Therefore, we will be looking at the outcomes of the second thematic session today dedicated to the role of institutions, civil society and media in combatting and preventing Violence against Women. The cooperation between these three actors has demonstrated to be the key for development in many societies, including our countries in Europe.
We reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the capacities of civil society as actor of change for a sustainable and inclusive development, focusing especially on women’s huge potential for Egypt.
In conclusion, and with special thanks to all our partners, the Cairo University, The British Council, and the National Council of Women, the lessons learnt from this project will serve to better synergise our response to the challenges ahead in supporting the empowerment of women in all spheres of our cooperation starting from our support to higher education.