Behind every community suffering from illiteracy, poverty or violence, there are women oppressed. Cultural and social constraints deprive them from their rights in education, work and generally in everyday life. The potential of women in such communities is locked, marginalized or even exploited; hence, sustainable development is just not possible. Only if all community members are equally integrated, having freedom to unfold talents and capabilities, a sustainable future can rise.
Closing the gap
One of the key priorities for achieving economic development is making the labor markets more flexible and inclusive to all the existing potential and hence closing the gender gap. Egypt is ranked 116 out of 138 countries in the Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 released by the World Economic Forum (WEF). This report assesses the competitiveness landscape of 138 economies, through providing insight into the drivers of their productivity and prosperity. The analyses emphasized that the advanced competitive economies are those, who have high percentage of female participation in the labor force.
With special regards to gender equality, Egypt occupies rank 132 out of 144 countries, according to the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016. “The Egyptian economy is in desperate need of qualified personnel – to compete in the global economy, we need to develop the best talents of both males and females,” says Helmy Abouleish, SEKEMs CEO.
A gender strategy for a balanced society
SEKEM knows that one of the basic conditions to realize sustainability is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” – number 5 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Since its beginnings in 1977, the initiative has been promoting equality and diversity among its members. Starting from the farms, SEKEM has created a female-friendly working environment in every corner of its enterprises. In 2015, SEKEM launched this commitment and goals within a comprehensive Gender Strategy for a Balanced Society. The strategy ensures fostering a safe and decent working environment for male and female co-workers. Hence, for instance, SEKEM provides flexible working hours to young mothers after their return from the maternity leave, as well as a place in SEKEMs nursery.
In 2015, the share of females in SEKEMs total workforce reached 23% including females occupying managerial positions. By SEKEMs Gender Strategy, this number shall increase more and more aiming to reach a 50/50 balance in its total labor force.
“We do not only empower women to promote gender equality, but for a much higher goal: A sustainable future,” Helmy Abouleish, SEKEMs CEO
Furthermore, SEKEM offers gender equality sessions to the students of SEKEM Schools and Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development. Students and pupils are involved in various activities like the Girls’ Day, in which the girls engage themselves in vocational workshops while the boys intern for instance as kindergarten teachers. SEKEM is convinced that raising awareness towards the power of women’s capabilities, especially among the youth, will contribute to breaking down boundaries; such boundaries that had been developed out of ignorance and the lack of awareness and have been hindering the development of societies for many years.
“We do not only empower women to promote gender equality, but for much higher goal: A sustainable future,” says Helmy Abouleish. It is the future, which SEKEMs vision portrays already for 40 years – a society in which no one is left behind, where everyone can find love and respect and where there is space to unleash potential.
40 years ago, SEKEM was founded with the idea of sustainable development and building of a prosperous future for Egypt and the world. For SEKEM, sustainable development is not a fancy topic to talk about, but the core business. SEKEM commits itself to the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and works to fulfill all 17 SDGs. SEKEM measures its holistic concept with the Sustainability Flower. The flower represents a management, assessment and communication tool symbolizing the concept of sustainable development in its four dimensions: economic life, societal life, cultural life and ecology.