The Arab Council for Childhood and Development (ACCD), the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR) and the Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND) organized a roundtable discussion on “Arab Women and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda: The Challenges of Digitization After Coronavirus Crisis”.
The virtual roundtable discussion was organized on Wednesday with the participation of around 50 representatives of relevant development institutions, experts and media professionals.
In his opening remarks, ACCD Secretary-General Dr. Hassan El-Bilawi congratulated CAWTAR on the publication of the 7th Arab Women Development Report (2019) on “Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda, the Role of Civil Society and the Media”. He noted that the report added new dimensions in dealing with the issue of sustainable development, namely the political, governance, and cultural-cognitive dimensions.
El-Bilawi pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic and the unprecedented crisis it brought about have exposed the fragility of the healthcare systems in the world’s most developed countries.
The outbreak of the disease has caused millions of children to miss out on education, deepened the inequality gap and lack of social justice among pupils, exacerbated feelings of fear, anxiety, and loneliness among children, the ACCD chief said, adding that the pandemic has increased the demand for the digital revolution.
For her part, KAWTAR Executive Director Dr. Sukaina Bouraoui welcomed the partnership with ACCD. She noted that this roundtable is the third in a series of virtual national events held by KAWTAR after Bahrain (in partnership with the Bahrain Women’s Union) and Jordan (in partnership with the Center for Women’s Studies at the University of Jordan).
All of these events address women’s issues and the sustainable development agenda. They focus on digitization post-COVID-19 crisis, and come within a regional project to strengthen the capabilities of members of the KAWTAR’s Arab Network for Gender and Development (ANGAD) on achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is implemented in partnership and with the support of AGFUND.
The roundtable discussed a number of pressing issues, where Eng. Hoda Dahroug, Head of the Central Department for Community Development at the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) addressed the issue of “Digitization and Modern Technology: Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women in Egypt”.
She reviewed the challenges of gender equality and the status of women in Egypt, as well as the role of technology in empowering women according to Egypt Vision 2030, which aims to develop a knowledge-based society.
Ms. Dahroug made a set of recommendations calling for building systems for sustainable response to crises. She underscored the importance of coordination and integration between all partners at the national and international levels, as well as the expansion of education and remote employment programs, and the need to adopt the principles of sustainability and risk and crisis management in operational policies and business models with a focus on green projects.
Former Egyptian Minister of Education Dr. Yousry El Gamal, Professor of Computer Engineering, presented a working paper on “Experiences of adopting digitization in girls’ education to confront the coronavirus pandemic”.
He focused on education before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the confusion that reigned during the pandemic, as it is estimated that 24 million children are at risk of dropping out of school, with high rates of violence, high rates of child labor, and the disruption of support services for children with disabilities.
El Gamal pointed out that Egypt had responded to those challenges by encouraging a shift towards hybrid education, and establishing the largest digital library for all educational stages through the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB). Nevertheless, he said, the pandemic has caused educational and social impacts that have contributed to creating gender gaps, which has resulted in limiting girls’ educational opportunities due to poverty, cultural norms and practices, weak infrastructure, violence and fragility.
The former education minister called for drawing up a future vision based on curbing virus transmission, comprehensive planning for school reopening, protecting education funding and coordination in order to achieve the desired effect, developing a new perception of education and accelerating positive change in teaching and learning methods.
For her part, Director of Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development Center (ACT) Dr. Azza Kamel addressed the topic of “Digital Mechanisms to Combat Gender-Based Violence During and After Coronavirus”. She also talked about the reality of violence against women in light of COVID-19, as monitoring reports and complaints revealed an increase in domestic violence rates during the pandemic, which radically changed the lives of women and girls.
The roundtable discussion, which was moderated by Director of the KAWTAR Media Training Center Itidal Majbari, featured a presentation of the ACCD experience in adopting digitalization and modern technologies as well as facing the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
The presentation was given by Eng. Mohamed Reda Fawzy, Director of Research, Documentation and Knowledge Development Department at ACCD. He reviewed the Council’s new model of upbringing, the “Hope Education Model” in terms of its pillars, values and applications through a set of strategic projects.
Fawzy also highlighted ACCD’s efforts to confront the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahmed Abdel Nadhir, an instructor and expert in population and development issues at CAWTAR, presented the seventh Women’s Development Report on Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He pointed out that CAWTAR has chosen this topic by focusing on the role of civil society and the media, as they constitute a basic criterion for assessing the level of countries’ participation in implementing the agenda and adhering to it.
The expert explained that the report underlined the need to approach development and the 2030 Agenda from a human rights perspective, and to make the issue of gender equality a basic criterion for the success of development as a whole.
This roundtable discussion comes within the framework of the active development alliance among the organizing bodies under the chairmanship of Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. It also aimed at delving deep into research and discussion about the implications of COVID-19 as well as the health, economic, social, educational and technological challenges triggered by the pandemic, and its impact on marginalized groups such as women and children, in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.