Whether you like the leadership style of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, or not; there is one thing you cannot deny. That is El-Sisi’s unconditional support for women’s rights.
President El-Sisi’s support of women’s rights is not part of a political plan to win a support base among women. Neither, it is not a political card to play whenever he needs to stop the international community from criticizing the human rights situation in Egypt. El-Sisi genuinely believes in women’s right to access equal opportunities to effectively participate in building the future of their own homeland.
In that sense, El-Sisi has been the first Egyptian president to challenge the barren social mindset, fueled by extremist religious rhetoric, that kept women suffering, for decades, under unfair norms and traditions. Within only seven years, since he got elected as president of the state in 2014, women’s rights witnessed huge and unprecedented leaps. For the first time in history, Egyptian women are currently leading state’s policymaking and legislative institutions with eight female ministers and a percentage of 27% of seats in Parliament.
In addition, during the past few months, El-Sisi has been working closely with the leadership of the Judicial Authority to allow women judges to use their constitutional right to seek working at high profile judicial positions at the Public Prosecutor’s bureau and the State Council. Hiring women in such sensitive judicial positions is a first in the history of Arab and Islamic countries, worldwide.
Nevertheless, the administration of President El-Sisi succeeded in ending the sufferings of women resulting from poverty and inhuman living conditions. That is, mainly, through providing government-sponsored health care programs and social solidarity initiatives that targeted the women in poverty, all over Egypt.
Following this unprecedented success in improving the status of women inside Egypt, El-Sisi’s next mission is to help women in Muslim Majority countries, worldwide. The suffering of women in the Islamic world is not limited to gender-based social and economic discrimination. Most of the suffering of women in Islamic countries stems from political instability and lack of security. A good example on this is Arab women’s suffering under the unbearable civil wars and terrorist organizations wreaking havoc all over the Middle East.
On Thursday, President El-Sisi launched the “Women’s Development Organization” (WDO) as part of the 8th Ministerial Meeting on Women of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). WDO is an international women’s rights organization, that is affiliated to OIC, with headquarters based in Cairo, Egypt. El-Sisi promised to avail all possible means for the new trans-national women’s organization to succeed. He confirmed that Egypt will create a think tank to be attached to the organization to help decision-makers with their mission to improve women’s rights in their countries within the framework of the OIC plan for 2025 and OIC’s Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women (OPAAW), approved by OIC members in 2008. President El-Sisi, also, confirmed that Egypt will pay the WDO annual contribution fees, on behalf of the 22 less-developed countries, who are members of the organization.
The Women’s Development Organization is the first organization of its kind, in the Islamic world. Its main goal is to encourage OIC member states to work collectively, and separately on the national domestic level, to advance women’s rights and increase women engagement in national and regional development goals. This requires challenging barren social norms and extremists’ distorted interpretations of the holly texts of Islam.
That is a great challenge, especially for Egypt, which hosts the headquarters of the organization. However, we expect a success for WDO no less than the success achieved by El-Sisi’s administration on women’s rights in Egypt, within a record time of only seven years.