When you were ten years old, what was your biggest concern?
Each morning before sunrise, 10-year old *Nabil would begin working his 11 hour shift in a cotton field. His biggest concern would be to earn enough every day to buy just enough food to keep his younger sisters’ malnutrition at bay for another day.
Nabil said the summer season was always the worst. Scorching temperatures and the high demand of western countries for Egyptian cotton meant each day was especially long and hard. If Nabil didn’t keep up an extremely fast pace in the day ahead, his supervisors would beat him or withhold his low wages.
Nabil’s mother is a widow. As with 90% of the widows Coptic Orphans works with, illiteracy and social stigma meant that she couldn’t make even the five Egyptian Pounds a day that her underage child Nabil earned.
When we were first introduced to Nabil’s family his mother cried when speaking about their situation. She didn’t want her son to feel pressured to take care of his family. She said, “My boy should be playing like a child, not working like a man.” During the conversation Nabil comforted his mother by saying, “don’t cry mama, I’m the man of the house now.”
Unfortunately, Nabil’s story isn’t unique. Over 211 million children around the world between the ages of five and 14 work to help support their families.
For all its progress and glorious past, Egypt is among the worst countries for child labor. Children as young as six work in fields, factories, or sell goods on the street from sun up to sun down. Child labor is a big problem for those we must reach most urgently.
Coptic Orphans uses three methods at once to solve it quickly and permanently for families in Not Alone, the flagship program of Coptic Orphans.
First, the new microcredit program of Coptic Orphans, B’edaya, (pronounced “Beh-‘uh-day-uh”) helps widows become providers so they don’t have to pull the older children out of school to feed the younger ones.
Second, Reps make sure that a family comes to understand what is best for them in the long run: a job for nine-year-old may be a temporary fix for a family’s immediate needs, but an education can ensure their long term success and opportunities.
Third, Coptic Orphans Reps make sure that working children can escape the child labor trap, catch up on the learning they missed, and get back in school. We make a covenant with families so they can stay in the program until their child finishes his or her education. Then we make sure the family gets access to its basic needs as long as each child stays in school.
Nabil will have these opportunities in Not Alone thanks to contributors who helped Coptic Orphans seek out and bring more than 1,000 new children into Not Alone in 2011.
Coptic Orphans will make sure that this summer, Nabil will learn and have fun without concern for things that will take away his future.
Egypt Child Labor Facts
• In rural areas over 40% of children under 14 work
•Underage girls make up 71% of the child labor force
• The average child laborer earns 1/4 the wages of an adults
• 78% of working children are in the agricultural sector
• 2 million child between the ages of 6 and 15 work in Egypt