|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
29 Oct. - 4 Nov. 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Social security for women
Mrs Suzanne Mubarak has said there can be no going back on the principle of women working in the service of society. Addressing the second national congress for women working in government, the First Lady said the role played by women was not only their right but an inevitable duty. She affirmed the importance of ensuring a minimum level of social security for women in view of the privatisation of the public sector and the shift to a free-market economy. "When we address the conditions of working women, we should be concerned not only with improving the performance of one half of our society but also with the more important issue of participation and its impact on development," Mrs Mubarak said.
"There is no doubt that the contribution of women to the economy is an important indicator of society's progress and a propelling force in economic and social development," Mrs Mubarak added. She said that although Egyptian women have played a pivotal part in boosting economic and social development, "this role still faces major challenges. Now we still need to find a new social formula to activate the role of women in development, as well as legislation that will pave the way for a more forceful participation by women in social and economic life."
Mrs Mubarak said the principal challenge facing Egyptian women at present was how to make the most of the opportunities made available by globalisation and the shift to a free-market economy. "This requires a new vision for development so that spending on the development of human resources becomes a true investment, not a social expense," she asserted.
Mrs Mubarak said that the shift to a free-market economy did not mean a reversal of government policy but a change in the government's role. Instead of direct intervention in productive activities, the government will be required to spend more on education, medical care, scientific research, upgrading infrastructure and environmental protection, she explained. The government is also required to support the institutions that are concerned with upholding the supremacy of law, preserving the stability of the economy and increasing its transparency, she added.
Mrs Mubarak said that in view of the experience of other countries, there have been fears that the shift to a free-market economy could "aggravate the discrepancy" between the status of working men and women. On the positive side, she said, women are heavily involved in several industries, such as electronics, pharmaceuticals and garments, as well as in tourism, trade, insurance and accounting. However, she added that women's participation in leadership roles leaves much to be desired.
One obstacle facing working women is the "intellectual pattern that gives man a working opportunity but confines woman to a position in social service that could marginalise her role in activities that are continuously assuming greater importance, such as investment and business management," Mrs Mubarak said. Another obstacle is the shrinking role of the governmental and public sectors, where the majority of women are employed. "Consequently, a minimum level of social security should be ensured for women in view of privatisation and the shift to a free market economy," she added.
In order to achieve this target, Mrs Mubarak recommended that the private sector provide women with more employment opportunities and that training programmes should be introduced to improve their professional skills.
The congress, which met on Sunday, was organised by the General Federation of Trade Unions in coordination with the ministries of labour and administrative development.