Egypt: ID cards help women proclaim their existence

Nesma, one of the 5 million women in Egypt without a national ID card.
Nesma was one of millions of women in Egypt without a national ID card. Photo: Mohamed Hany/UN Women

At 28, Nesma is the principal provider for her children and husband, who is living with a disability. Like many others in Egypt, her family is struggling for food, shelter and education due to the challenging economic situation.

When Nesma heard about the Citizenship Initiative, a project aiming to issue 2 million national ID cards for Egyptian women, she made sure she was among the first in line at the local unit in Giza.

Highlights

  • A joint UN project aims to strengthen the democratic process and empower 2 million women living without ID cards.
  • As of December 2014, 159,000 women had received their ID cards and 300,000 were registered to receive IDs.
  • Launched in 2011, the initiative is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and local authorities.

“This is a dream come true for me,” she says. “I need this ID card to be able to find a decent job and fulfill my responsibilities as a mother and a wife. But most importantly, I need it to prove my existence as a woman.”

Launched in 2011, the initiative is part of a larger project to strengthen the democratic process in Egypt, and is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP, the Ministry of State for Administrative Development (MSAD) and the Social Fund for Development (SFD), in collaboration with the Civil Status Organization (CSO) in the Ministry of Interior (MOI).

Mobile registrars have been set up to reach out to remote areas, and public awareness campaigns inform poor and marginalized women about the benefits of having an ID card.

The card allows women to vote and seek membership in political parties. It gives them access to government services including public hospitals, literacy programmes and banking services. It also enables them to have valid marriage contracts that preserve their marital rights and to move freely around the country. In short, it empowers them to participate in public life and to be full citizens with rights and responsibilities.

“Nesma is one of millions of women in Egypt who do not have ID cards and are denied their basic rights as citizens on a daily basis,” says Heba Wafa, Gender Officer in UNDP Egypt Country Office. “Without IDs women like Nesma cannot apply for jobs, enroll their kids in school or have a source of income that would help them provide the basic needs of their families.”

As of December 2014, 159,000 women had received their National ID cards in Alexandria, Assiut, Aswan, Giza, Qalyoubia and Souhag, while 300,000 had were registered to receive IDs.

“My story is not unique. None of my women neighbours have IDs,” Nesma said. “After I got mine, I explained to them the benefits of the Citizenship Initiative and encouraged them to get their own IDs.”

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