A new Cabinet was sworn in on Saturday before President Abdel-Fattah el Sisi, a week after the surprise resignation of Ibrahim Mehlab and his Cabinet.

The new Cabinet, headed by former Minister of Petroleum and current Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, consists of 33 ministers, including 3 women and 16 new members.

The appointment of female ministers in the Cabinet was lauded as positive on social media channels and in mainstream news. It’s no surprise that the role of women in the public and political sphere is a topic of heavy debate in the Arab world – female representation in the Egyptian government is well below the global average. According to UN Women, women represent 22% of parliaments in the world, while in Egypt only 5% of registered parliamentary candidates are female (Cairo Post). Additionally, women occupy 17% of Ministers’ positions worldwide, but only 9% of Egypt’s Cabinet is female.  

On the topic of gender equality in government, columnist Mustafa Al-Bakri was quoted in Egypt Today saying that women have the potential to be a ‘real strike force’ in the upcoming parliamentary elections. 

With that in mind, we decided to find out a little bit more about our three female ministers.

Sahar Nasr, Minister of International Cooperation

Photo credits: AlBawaba News

Sahar Nasr was appointed the Minister of International Cooperation on Saturday. Prior to her appointment, Nasr was the Lead Finicial Economist in the World Bank’s Department of Finance and Private Sector Development of North Africa and the Middle East. 

Nasr was also the regional leader of several portfolios that focused on the development of the financial sector and non-bank financial institutions. She was the Program Manager of the MENA Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Technical Assistance Facility, focusing on financial inclusion.

She worked in technical and managerial positions in bank restructuring, mortgage finance, affordable low-income housing, access to finance, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and micro-finance.

The last project Nasr worked on for the World Bank was in 2010, which focused on assisting Egyptian authorities in further developing and creating an environment for financial intermediation. According to the World Bank, this project increased private participation in the provision of financial services – via a strengthened bank and non-bank financial system.

Nasr also published various articles in leading journals and mainstream media outlets, including articles on the economic security of Arab women, and women’s economic empowerment and political participation. 

She also taught Economics in the American University in Cairo – where she received her BA in the same field in 1985. Her latest academic achievement was participating in the program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance at Harvard Business School in 2014.

Nabila Makram Abdelshahid, Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates’ Affairs

Photo credits: Roayah News

Nabila Makram Abdelshahid (or Makram-Ebeid) was appointed the Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates’ Affairs. 

Makram studied Political Science at Cairo University, graduating in 1991. The Minister joined the Diplomatic circuit and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1993. She worked as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in 1995. In 1997, she was the Third Secretary in the Egyptian Embassy in Brazil, and the Second Secretary in the Egyptian Council in Chicago in the United States in 2004.

She continued her diplomatic work as First Secretary at the Egyptian Embassy of Rome, Italy in 2007. She also represented Egypt as Vice-Consul (Naaeb el Consul) at the Egyptian Council in Dubai in 2013.

Ghada Wali, Minister of Social Solidarity

Photo credits: Reuters

Ghada Wali is the only female Minister remaining from Mehlab’s Cabinet. Wali is known for her advocacy of Arab Women’s Rights in the region. 

Wali has over 23 years of experience in integrated development management. She was a key member of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), where she occupied the position of Assistant Resident Representative and headed up the poverty reduction & job creation portfolio starting in 2011. 

Wali was also a representative at the National Council for Women (NCW), an organisation advocating the rights of women in Egypt, which was founded by presidential decree in the year 2000.

According to the Dubai Government Summit’s session Arab Women: From Vision to Leadership, Wali urged leaders to be more inclusive of women in government, and encouraged their increasing participation. She was quoted as saying, “Arab Societies must highlight women’s role as pioneers and their success stories in our education system messages.”

She also addressed the issue of parliamentary quotas for women. She said during the summit that, “Quotas for women must be specified in the Arab world. This must be done until it is accepted as a necessary part of politics.”

According Daily News Egypt, Wali is also known for the banning of 50 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as suspending 27 NGO boards of directors, who were allegedly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in 2015.The NGOs were banned in five governorates, including Beheira, Fayoum, and Beni Suef. 

Information accumulated from UN Women, UNDP, Daily News Egypt, Al Arabiya, Al Arabiya News, World Bank, Ahram Online, Al Jazeera and Egypt Today.

Feature photo credits: Al Arabiya