In Egypt child labour is a real social emergency. Out of population of about 80 million people, the work force includes more than 2 million children between the ages of 7 and 15. Many of them have to leave school to keep their families. In Cairo, working children often live on the streets and are exposed to many kinds of violence and the risk of serious illness.
AMU (Azione per un mondo unito, meaning Action for a United World), an NGO inspired by the spirituality of the Focolare Movement, which for years has working with the Foundation ‘Koz Kazah’ (‘Rainbow’ in Arabic), has continued its commitment in 2013 to work for the children of the Shubra district of Cairo. They are minors between 5 and 15 years old, doing unskilled work and coming from extremely difficult home situations. The prime objective is to give them back their childhoods by creating conditions suitable for their ages. A centre has been established and the children come to it one day a week, when they are off work, and they have the chance to learn how to read and write and, through games, sport and art, they learn how to recover their self-esteem and their ability to interact positively with others. The older children, who have been coming to the centre for several years, help the new ones fit in with the various activities. A club has been set up called ‘Edn Masr’ (Child of Egypt).
Seeing how successful it has been over the years, led the centre to venture into offering job training courses: as electricians and carpenters for the boys, as dressmakers for the girls. An interesting confirmation of this activity is taking place with a theatre course held by a professional director. In September they managed to offer a first performance at an important peace day run by Koz Kazah together with two Muslim associations, one that cares for orphans and the other for people with disabilities.
Hanaa Kaiser, the local representative of AMU for the project said, ‘The peace day was a unique opportunity for our children to feel appreciated and part of society. The performers came from every social category among both Christians and Muslims.’ She went on to say, ‘We have seen that sport plays an important part in educating boys, and so we have organized a football tournament with other sport’s centres in the city. For girls things are very different and in our various activities we find we can help them overcome several prejudices deeply rooted in some parts of society. For example, R., among the brightest girls in the school, was supposed to finish her studies after middle school in order to get married, which was all that was thought possible for her. Our support made it possible to convince her parents to let her carry on and become a nurse. This was an important sign of change also for other families.’
Another important achievement has been attained by four boys who passed the government literacy examination. With the certificate obtained, they will be able to get a job and a driving licence, and work, for instance, as taxi drivers. This will certainly be an example for others and encourage them to better their living conditions.
Project data for 2013
Project: Children at risk – in the country and locally: Egypt, Cairo
Beneficiaries: 120 minors
Local partner: the Koz Kazah Foundation
Total cost of the project: €27,624.37
Local funds: €12,352.63 – funds asked from AMU €15,271.74
Source: AMU Notizie and AMU Newsletter