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Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment


A Community Health Worker (CHW) speaks with a mother about infant care and nutrition.
A Community Health Worker (CHW) speaks with a mother about infant care and nutrition. CHWs are also change agents as they spread messages against gender-based violence.

USAID works in partnership with the Government of Egypt to reduce gender gaps across a wide range of sectors and activities, including removing constraints to women’s economic participation; addressing sexual harassment and gender-based violence; and reducing the gender enrollment gap at all levels of education – including improving access for girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. 

Egypt ranks low in gender equity compared to other countries worldwide.  The 2015 Global Gender Gap Index, which measures disparities between men and women across countries, ranks Egypt at 136 out of 145 countries worldwide. Women have significantly lower participation in the labor force than men (26% vs 79%) and lower literacy (65% literacy for women vs 82% of males). The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Social Institutions and Gender Index 2014, which measures legislation, practices, and attitudes that restrict women’s rights and opportunities, classifies Egypt to be among the countries ‘very high’ in gender discrimination together with others in Africa and the Middle East. And as revealed by the 2014 Demographic and Health Survey, 92% of the ever-married women ages 15-49 interviewed have been circumcised.

Economic Growth

Empowering women and integrating them as active participants in the economy is essential to promoting economic growth in Egypt. According to the IMF, raising the female labor force participation rate to the male level, coupled with access to employment opportunities, would increase GDP by approximately 34 percent. In partnership with the Government of Egypt and the private sector, USAID has a number of activities designed to improve the skills and participation rate of women in the workforce and remove constraints to women’s economic participation in micro, small, and medium enterprises. 

For instance, one component of the recently awarded Strengthening Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (SEED) project is to provide business development services to help women launch new businesses – and create new jobs.  The new Workforce Improvement and Skills Enhancement (WISE) project focuses on skills development through providing teacher training in technical schools, on-the-job training, and employability training for job seekers – with a focus on women and youth. To promote workplace safety and help narrow the gender employment gap in agribusiness, USAID’s Women’s Employment Promotion program focuses on reducing sexual harassment in the agribusiness industry. To encourage women’s participation in areas important to Egypt’s economy, USAID has provided over 600 scholarships since 2014 to female undergraduate and graduate students to study in fields such as business, science, and engineering. 


Recognizing the importance of education in empowering girls and women socially, economically, and politically, USAID works in partnership with the Government of Egypt to encourage equitable access to quality education and ensure impactful learning outcomes starting at the primary level. Further, materials developed for the Early Grade Learning program take a gender equality approach to ensure even and non-sexist portrayals of youth. In secondary education, USAID supports girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics high schools in multiple governorates in Egypt. To improve quality of teaching and learning, USAID has provided equal opportunities for training and professional development to both male and female teachers in public schools. Through the U.S.-Egypt Higher Education Initiative, USAID has so far awarded scholarships to 53 women to pursue master’s in business administration degrees at U.S. universities and 21 women to pursue STEM undergraduate degrees at U.S. universities. 

Even small investments in women’s education and economic empowerment can have a great impact on health outcomes.  USAID health activities implement and expand on a set of proven interventions focused on improving health behaviors and enhancing the quality of health services while adopting a woman- and girl-centered approach. Activities to address maternal, neonatal, and child health and nutrition have adopted an equity-focused approach by targeting the most vulnerable women and newborns, improving the continuum of care, building the capacity of health care providers, strengthening health systems, promoting communication for behavioral changes, and creating an enabling environment for maternal and newborn health and gender equality. 


Gender-related dynamics and constraints are addressed with both health service providers and with the communities and families they serve. Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trained to communicate health messages that address gender constraints, power relations, and decision-making processes within households. CHWs are important agents in spreading messages to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, focusing  on early marriage, domestic violence, and female genital cutting. All information, education, and communications materials use gender-sensitive images, model positive gender dynamics, and endeavor to create a supportive environment in local communities that will further sustain behavior change. 

Democracy and Governance

USAID supports programs that help build women’s self-confidence, develop their negotiating and network-building skills, and identify sources of information and support. These programs focus on empowering women to identify, prioritize, and take action to address their needs.  USAID is also working to strengthen the managerial and technical skills of women to encourage their participation in their communities and to improve coordination among local organizations to reduce gender-based violence (GBV). In 2009, USAID produced the first study on violence against women in Egypt. In 2010, USAID helped the National Council for Women draft a national framework to combat violence against women. This framework became the basis for the country's National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women in 2015. In addition, in June 2014, Egypt amended its Penal Code to designate sexual harassment as a crime. This amendment was the result of USAID-supported coordination efforts between civil society and the government of Egypt.


Through USAID assistance in 2015:

  • 78,500 women living in rural and marginalized areas received their national ID cards.
  • 91 girls graduated from STEM high schools and were accepted to top ranking public and private universities in Egypt, the U.S., Europe, and in the MENA region.
  • 74 women received scholarships to study at U.S universities.
  • 23 female survivors of trafficking received direct assistance and services.
  • 97 female survivors of gender-based violence received services such as health care, legal support, psycho-social counseling, or shelter.

Current Activities

While all USAID/Egypt activities have a gender component, there are several activities that focus specifically on women’s empowerment and gender equity.

Women’s Political Empowerment: This multi-donor activity promotes political participation among women and members of marginalized groups. It helps women obtain national identification documents needed to become registered voters and provides training and capacity building to women who are potentially interested in running for parliament or local offices. It advocates for electoral and political processes that include women and provides training to key stakeholders and the media on the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  To date, this activity has resulted in 182,000 women across Egypt (78,500 through USAID funding) obtaining national ID cards. Implementing Partner: UN Women; Life of Project: February 9, 2012-June 30, 2016; Total USAID Funding: $1.4 million.

Safe Cities Free from Violence Against Women and Girls: This multi-donor project initially worked to combat sexual harassment in public. As a result of its success both at the community level and in promoting legislation to combat sexual violence, its scope has expanded to include support mechanisms for survivors of violence against women. The Safe Cities project is strengthening shelters and other first-contact service providers and enhancing community-based services for rehabilitation, health, and legal support for survivors and their families.  It supports advocacy on changing perceptions and uses innovative awareness-raising tools such as interactive community theater, storytelling, and art to promote a culture of zero tolerance for violence against women – and a culture of responsibility towards the survivors of this abuse.  Implementing Partner: UN Women; Life of Project: October 1, 2013-September 30, 2019; Total USAID Funding: $7 million.

Youth Civic Engagement (Tamkeen): This activity helps school-aged girls develop the skills they need to be leaders in their communities. It also develops the ability of small community-based civil society organizations (CSOs) to use social media; conduct strategic planning; and design, implement, monitor, and evaluate projects that increase girls’ civic engagement. More than 5,400 beneficiaries have received voter and civic education through this activity. In addition, 40 small CSOs have received intensive institutional capacity building workshops as well as training on raising the civic awareness of female youth. The activity has supported nine networking meetings in three governorates during which CSOs, as well as school-aged girls, shared experiences, successes, best practices, and lessons learned. Implementing Partner: Coptic Orphans Support Association; Total USAID Funding: $1.8 million.

Women’s Employment Promotion is a pilot project designed to advance safe and women-friendly workplaces within the agribusiness sector. The project targets six agribusiness firms to assist them to reposition themselves as models in gender-balanced workplace policies, attitudes, and inclusive work environments. Implementing Partner: UN Women; Life of Project: July 14, 2015-July 13, 2017; Total USAID Funding: $900,000; Bilateral Agreement: ARDII.

Supporting Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development promotes growth and competitiveness of SMEs by improving their access to high-quality public and private services, including support in obtaining accurate market information, developing business plans, and gaining access to finance. The project will focus on 3-5 selected sectors, with an emphasis on SMEs that are woman-owned or have the potential to hire significant numbers of women and youth. Implementing Partner: AECOM; Life of Project: November 1, 2015-October 31, 2019; Total USAID Funding: $22.9 million. Bilateral Agreement: Trade and Investment Promotion in Egypt (TIPE).

HEI STEM and MBA Scholarships for Women: Under the U.S.-Egypt Higher Education Initiative, this project provides scholarships to talented, high-achieving Egyptian women to pursue 100 MBAs and 60 undergraduate degrees in STEM fields in the U.S., with the aim of creating a cadre of highly-trained women leaders in these fields.  Implementing Partner: Institute of International Education; Life of Project: June 1, 2012-December 31, 2018; Total USAID Funding: $20 – 25 million; Bilateral Agreement: The U.S.-Egypt Higher Education Initiative.

Community Health Worker Training Project:  USAID helps community health workers (CHWs) provide low cost interventions such as health education and counseling through home visits and at primary health centers on challenges such as malnutrition, stunting, and viral hepatitis. The activity supports urgent training needs of CHWs and operates in all governorates to provide new (mostly female) community health workers with the knowledge and skills required to perform their responsibilities. Implementing Partner: Ministry of Health; Life of Project: March 1, 2015-March 31, 2016; Total USAID Funding: $390,615; Bilateral Agreement: Healthier Planned Families (HPF).

Improving Maternal, Child Health, and Nutrition Services in Egypt:  This activity complements the CHW Training Project by conducting a strategic review and assessment of Egypt’s National CHW Program, including the training curriculum, to map its strengths and weaknesses. The assessment will support the development of a comprehensive CHW strategy for Egypt and the project will provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Health to enable them to implement the recommendations, resulting in a stronger CHW program. Implementing Partner: JHPIEGO; Life of Project: April 19, 2015-April 30, 2018; Total USAID Funding: $3.5 million; Bilateral Agreement: HPF.

Integrated Perinatal and Child Health & Nutrition Program:  Building on the success of previous USAID neonatal health projects, this activity works with the Ministry of Health to further reduce neonatal mortality and child malnutrition through improved access to essential maternal, neonatal, and child health and nutrition services in disadvantaged areas by upgrading facilities, training service providers, strengthening the health referral system, and improving community-level health awareness. Implementing Partner: UNICEF; Life of Project: July 17, 2012-December 31, 2015; Total Estimated Cost: $5.4 million; Bilateral Agreement: HPF.

Last updated: April 26, 2016

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