Within the broader reform framework, several MENA countries have analysed their institutions and processes from a gender perspective and have started to address gender imbalances in decision-making. This involves considering the different needs of men and women in setting policies and spending patterns, and implementing mechanisms to ensure equal treatment in public institutions and before the law. The case studies selected in Chapter 9, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, show how some countries are using consolidated strategies and whole-of-government approaches to make governance more gender-sensitive. Egypt and Morocco have both developed interesting strategies for promoting gender equality in the public sector, while Tunisia offers a noteworthy approach to enhancing women’s status in society.
Egypt launched a comprehensive gender approach in 2000 following the formation of the National Council for Women (NCW) by presidential decree. Reporting to the President of the Republic, the NCW provides the high-level leadership needed to advance a complex and cross-cutting issue like gender. NCW has launched initiatives to mainstream gender in the national budget, to incorporate gender more fully in public policy, and to strengthen the gender dimension in the Social and Economic Development Plan. The NCW has also prepared two five-year plans, one aimed at the central level (2002-07) and the other at the governorate level (2008-12), and has spearheaded several institutional changes to implement these plans. It recommended establishing Equal Opportunity Units in each ministry to mainstream women’s concerns and to track and combat workplace discrimination against women. In 2001, NCW also established an ombudsman’s office, to which citizens can bring discrimination complaints. The NCW has provided training in gender participatory planning for 22 line ministries and 179 (of the 232) regional governments at district level.
The Moroccan experience shows that the basic elements in this process are consistent leadership, a clear strategy driven down through the government at ministry level and translated into specific action plans, and the engagement of key external stakeholders. The Moroccan government has invested in solid research that provides a strong evidence base for reform; in training programmes targeted to specific audiences within government and civil society to disseminate gender tools and practices; and in gender-specific staff units to oversee these programmes and promote inter-ministerial co-operation. Other measures that bring attention to gender concerns include gender budgeting, which identifies areas where revenues or expenditures may need to be restructured in order to promote gender equality. This has gained further impetus from Morocco’s recognition of the link between gender budgeting and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (particularly MDG 3 on the promotion of gender equality and the impowerment of women, and MDG 8 on support to international co-operation).
Tunisia is a regional pioneer in promoting gender equality: it has amended the national legal framework and has complied with UN conventions. The legal measures taken by the government address the status of women in the family, in society, in the workplace and before the law. They aim to ensure equal access to public services, public functions and equal participation in social welfare improvements and economic growth. Tunisia was also the first MENA country to introduce measures to allow for the reconciliation of family and professional life. Article 11 of the General Statute for Public Sector Staff stipulates equal access to the public sector, equal treatment in terms of hiring, capacity development and promotion, as well as equal remuneration of men and women.