Kairo, 22. October 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "A renaissance of the Arab world based on women’s integration"

22.10.2007

Foreign Minister meets with women working in Egypt’s judiciary, business, science, media and civil society

Cairo, 22 October 2007 - "The integration of women is essential for the future of the Arab region - without such an integration there will be no renaissance of the Arab world. Here, Egypt can become an outstanding role model," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today at her meeting with dedicated women from Egypt’s judiciary, business, science, media and civil society. Among them were Tahani Al-Gibaly, Egypt’s first female judge, Nehad Abu El Komsan, Director of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, Moushira Khattab, Head of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, and Yousriya Loza-Sawiris, who is particularly committed to work in Cairo’s slums. In this context the Foreign Minister referred to the 2005 Arab Human Development Report, which also served as a basis for the Middle East Women’s Conference held in Vienna in May.

"It is important to me to obtain first-hand knowledge on the situation of women and girls in Egypt, to find out what has improved in recent years but also to hear about problems and challenges that still exist. My aim is to strengthen women’s networks, and improve our cooperation and dialogue with one another. Only by concerted action will we succeed in leveraging women’s full potential and ensure their contribution to their societies," stated Plassnik. The mutual exchange included themes such as violence against women, particularly the fight against genital mutilation, the status of women’s rights, participation in political and economic life and access to education.

Egypt is particularly committed to combating violence against women and genital mutilation. Moushira Khattab reported, for instance, on a network of young volunteers who pass on their personal experiences, thus ensuring public awareness of the issue. Reports on crimes against women can now be found on the title pages of newspapers, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. In this connection Khattab also expressed her thanks to the EU for its support for Egyptian initiatives.

"Access to education, and the quality of that education, are the key factors for women’s stronger involvement in society," stated Plassnik. In this context, Mona Mostafa ElBaradei, Chairman of the Economic and Political Faculty, emphasised the importance of teacher training. In the past three years teacher training programmes had been carried out at some 720 Egyptian schools.

With regard to the status of women’s rights in Egypt the participants stressed that it was linked to compliance with Islamic law, also in the new constitution. As Hala Mustafa, Chief Editor of Democracy Review, stated: "The first thing that is sacrificed in the fight against Islamist forces is women’s rights."

Finally, Plassnik called upon the participants to continue their contacts and further intensify their networks: "We must encourage women to assume their rightful place in society. A society without comprehensive mobilisation of women’s potential sets limits on itself, to its own disadvantage," concluded the Foreign Minister.

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