Support Women in Egypt to Combat COVID-19
With economic deprivation and endangered health producing instability and threatening unrest, women can play vital roles in maintaining order and security.
The new White House Gender Policy Council signals the formulation of a coherent intersectional United States gender policy with profound implication at home and abroad. A clear and forceful egalitarian and socially just gender policy strengthens the ability of the U.S. to effectively cooperate with states and societies abroad in meeting the monumental challenges of the day as countries endure massive economic problems and grave health concerns amidst the persisting global pandemic. The council stands to fortify the commitment of the Biden-Harris administration to end the COVID-19 pandemic and to hasten the return of a robust economy at home and in countries abroad.
Here I reflect on possible implications of the new gender policy for Egypt. Over the past decade, the country suffered a major economic setback with the disappearance of tourism during and following the political upheavals and intermittent terrorist attacks. The onslaught of the pandemic exacerbated the prevailing economic and social hardships. In times of stress, it is observed that women and girls: 1) suffer disproportionally to men, and 2) rush to protect their families, local communities, and societies at large, with disregard for customary gender norms and lacking skills.
With economic deprivation and endangered health producing instability and threatening unrest, women can play vital roles in maintaining order and security. Implementation of an egalitarian gender policy can help ameliorate harsh economic and health conditions for the greatest number at the local level where direct assistance is urgently needed. U.S. foreign aid to Egypt is best utilized by prioritizing support for the training of women among the urban and rural poor—the vast majority of the population—in healthcare provision and income generating activities. Women throughout the country should be enlisted in encouraging the adoption of basic health measures in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus and to counter the rampant vaccination hesitancy. Organized engagement of women in national efforts to end the pandemic will bring women everywhere enhanced recognition and respect for the roles they play in protecting the health of their families, communities, and the entire nation in time of immense need and beyond. Supporting income generating programs for needy women will increase their capacity to sustain their abilities over the long run to actively contribute to their families and society.
I have observed over the years moving around the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt including the oases, how involving women in development projects has led, not only to immediate gains but to long term change. I have also witnessed the fragility of change in the face of massive economic and social setbacks, and their political implications rendering it necessary to remain vigilant and proactive. The Gender Policy Council can increase attention on gender integrated development assistance, knowing that it is ultimately a key element of sustainable livelihoods and economic progress and overall stability.
About the Author
Honorary Fellow, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding, Georgetown University
Middle East Program
The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Read more
Middle East Women's Initiative
The Middle East Women's Initiative (MEWI) promotes the empowerment of women in the region through an open and inclusive dialogue with women leaders from the Middle East and continuous research. Read more