Education Helps Women and Children Recognize Their Value
According to Egyptian Law, a child must be at least 16 years old to obtain employment. However, 46 percent of the 1.96 million working children in Egypt are between the ages of 15 and 17. In Egypt, children as young as 5 are employed as child workers, making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation, maltreatment, and the deprivation of their rights.
Nadia, 13, is from the slum community Khairallah in the south of Cairo. She is one of the 17 percent of working children who work for more than 12 hours a day without receiving a break. With her simple but emotional words, she recalls those days.
“I was pulled out of school when I was in grade 3 as my parents couldn’t afford my school fees. To help support my family, I worked for a hairdresser. I had to work for more than 12 hours cleaning the salon and tidying it up without a break," she says.
Nadia continues, "I felt as though I were a machine, or even worse; as machines can break down or rest, while I can’t,” she recalls bitterly.
The Importance of an Education
For several years, Nadia worked those hours and suffered in silence. While at work, she never forgot her dream to go to school so that she could become educated and help support her parents. She didn’t know how to make her dream come true until the day her mother attended an awareness raising session that Plan organized at her local Community Development Association (CDA).
“Through that session, my mother learned more about the long-term negative effects of child labor and the importance of education. When she returned home after the session, I saw her talking to my father and then she told me that from the next day, I would be attending the community school,” Nadia recalls happily.
The Impact of an Education on a Family’s Future
Sending Nadia to the community school was the turning point in her family’s fortunes. After the session, her mother also decided to join the vocational training course so that she could start a home-based work project and help her husband in supporting the family.
“My mother and I used to go together to the CDA. Both of us were learning. While I was learning reading, writing, and carpet weaving, my mother was learning how to breed rabbits. I was so happy when my mother completed the course and took out a loan to start her own project. Now, my mother sells the rabbits she breeds and makes a good profit. I’m so happy,” adds Nadia.
Plan’s Child Labor Program
Keeping children, like Nadia, out of the job market while they are under the legal age to work and supporting their efforts to stay at school is a large part of Plan’s Child Labor Program.
To achieve this goal, the program works with workshop owners, parents, children, government officials, community members and Community Development Associations to build public awareness about child rights and occupational safety.
Plan also works to empower mothers of working children by giving them the tools and training that they need to start their own businesses. This makes families more financially secure and less likely to withdraw their children from school.
“I’m so grateful to Plan and the child labor program teams who have helped me enjoy my rights and recognize that I have value,” Nadia concludes.