Egypt's President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi
Egypt's President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi Image Credit: AFP

Last Saturday was celebrated in Egypt as Egyptian Women’s Day — an annual occasion to mark the importance of women in society there, recognising their key roles in the family and in the economy. And given the reforms announced by Egypt’s President Abdul Fatah Al Sissi, it’s a day that takes on even more importance.

Firstly, there was good news for all Egyptians, regardless of their sex. President Al Sissi announced an increase in the nation’s minimum wage from 1,200 Egyptian pounds (Dh254) to 2,000 pounds. In addition, pensions are to be increased by 15 per cent, with pensioners receiving a minimum hike of 150 pounds to take the minimum pension to 900 pounds.

These measures follow on from a national budget that is expected to create nearly 900,000 jobs for Egyptians, focused on the export sector, and combined, all of these economic measures are part and parcel of Al Sissi’s determination to improve the lives for all Egyptians. That’s a goal that deserves our fullest acknowledgement and approval.

But Al Sissi had a lot more to say at the Women’s Day celebrations, outlining a series of innovative reforms that will transform the rights of Egyptian women, modernising their status and empowering them through improving their equality rights.

The president noted that the government would be drafting legislation to combat domestic violence against women, and would be introducing laws against child marriage, would ensure the equal right of females to education, and would also take measures to ensure that ex-husbands live up to their financial and legal responsibilities to women and children after a divorce. These measures will allow women to become fully engaged in Egyptian society and will protect them from abusive situations.

Egypt will also look at the phenomenon of low-income indebted women who end up in jail over debts related to their household or when daughters are married. In addition, the country is set to promote women’s financial inclusion and will take steps to ensure they are empowered through technology and backing for women-owned small projects. Al Sissi has already hinted at taking steps to put women on an equal footing in training programmes and community services.

Not only are the increases to minimum wages and pensions significant, but Al Sissi’s moves to empower women are indeed remarkable. It’s this type of innovative thinking that will truly transform and modernise Egyptian society — and shine a light in the region.