Infotmation and stories on Egypt

Waste Management in CairoCairo, a city of roughly 20 million people, produces more than 15,000 tons of solid waste every day. Even though the government funds some formal sector waste management, much of the time it relies heavily on the local poor. Since it is these neighborhoods that are often deemed “too expensive” for waste collection, the local individuals are burdened with the task of handling the solid waste.

Effective Methods

Zabbaleen, or Garbage People, spend their days sifting, sorting and transporting waste. Despite this arduous and tedious work, the locals have found methods of waste management in Cairo that arguably surpasses formal sector methods. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Association of Pollution, they recycle about 85 percent of the city’s waste—more than is even seen in North American and European cities.

The economic returns from informal waste management in Cairo are high, and thus it is a sector that requires proper facilitation in order to protect its workers.

Positive Impacts

Many firms purchase recycled materials at a lower rate than virgin resources which gives them a competitive edge. Zabbaleen are self-employed meaning they are lowering the overall unemployment rate in Cairo. In fact, globally, more than 15 million people rely on waste collection for employment. Organic waste diverted from dumpsites helps to feed local animals.

Negative Impacts

Children are kept home from school help with sorting thus they miss out on educational opportunities in exchange for immediate income. In Egypt, the net number of children enrolled in primary school is increasing, but Zabbaleen are among those least likely to attend. Exposure to toxins make Zabbaleen highly susceptible to diseases such as the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) which can be contracted from improperly disposed medical waste. Zabbaleen do not receive job benefits or protection despite being service providers to the city. The Association for the Protection of the Environment notes that although these workers help sort through 40 percent of the city’s waste, it is at no cost to the city.

Zabbaleen are integral to waste management in Cairo. In regions where formal infrastructure is not effective, these individuals are essential in reducing rates of pollution, providing jobs, and selling goods back to the market at a discounted price. Since Cairo does not directly fund these individuals, they rely on the help of outside organizations and firms to support them.

The World Bank funded a project in 2014 called the Cairo Municipal Solid Waste Management Project to help the country achieve environmental and development goals while recovering from residual economic hardship from the shocks in 2011. Since the population grew at such a rapid pace, the initiative strived to restore macroeconomic stability in order to help reduce extreme rates of poverty in the Delta and Upper-Egypt regions.

Organization to Empower

The Zabbaleen themselves run an organization that supports garbage collectors. The Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE), established in 1984, assists marginalized groups in their journey to reducing waste and raising the living standards of their community. One of their vital projects helps to treat individuals exposed to the Hepatitis C Virus from improperly disposed of medical waste. Egypt experiences some of the highest levels of HCV in the world with approximately 150,000 people infected each year according to the World Bank. About three tonnes of medical waste is generated daily, and much of it is simply disposed with municipal waste—putting Zabbaleen at risk.

Garbage collection in any large metropolitan area is critical to the survival and economic advancement of that city. As a result, it is crucial to include and recognize informal sector participation when creating policies and allocating funding. Locals are the most knowledgeable about their cities, thus governments will benefit from recognizing and heralding this expertise in order to support effective waste management in Cairo. The economic returns of garbage collection are high, so funding and supporting the workers will subsequently help reduce poverty in the region.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Wikimedia

Humanitarian Crisis in GazaIn early July 2019, presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren told a group of activists that “she would push to end the Israeli government’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza,” according to Mike Brest of the Washington Examiner. Senator Warren’s comments stray from her record as a vocal Israeli and AIPAC supporter, but her comments are important to the 2020 democratic presidential campaign as she is one of the, if not the first, democratic candidates to mention and wish to assist the Gaza Strip. As the 2020 presidential campaign moves forward, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention.

The Gaza Strip Blockade

Since 2007, Israel and its chief Arab ally, Egypt, have enforced a complete air, land and water blockade of the Gaza Strip in response to the Strip’s controversial election results. In Gaza’s first major elections, Hamas, a U.S. State Department recognized terrorist organization since 1997, won control of the Strip causing Israel to immediately impose sanctions. After Hamas forced its political rivals out, Fatah, Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade of Gaza to prevent further hostile actions from the Gazan government. In the 12 years since its implementation, “more than 1,000 Palestinians have died as a result of the ongoing blockade,” according to Al Jazeera in early 2018.

According to Al Jazeera, “Gazans continue to face a desperate situation because of the blockade with water and electricity shortages as well as a lack of medicines and doctors.” The heinous conditions in Gaza have resulted in the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an accredited independent organization, to declare the Strip “the world’s largest open-air prison” in mid-2018. The NRC also reported that “a 2012 U.N. report predicted [the Gaza Strip] would be unlivable by 2020” for the predicted population of 2.1 million Palestinian. Despite the U.N. report, the conditions have not improved in Gaza as “1.9 million people are confined [by the blockade], 84 percent require humanitarian aid, [and] 41 percent have too little food,” according to the NRC.

The United States and the Gaza Strip

Although the controversial blockade has continued for over a decade, U.S. politicians have rarely discussed the horrific conditions in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. has largely ignored the situation in Gaza, which has allowed it to perpetuate and worsen, but Senator Warren’s recent comments could point towards a possible advancement. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention, and some U.S. politicians could be bringing more light to the crisis.

The 2012 U.N. report on the Gaza Strip made its results very clear by stating that the Strip would be “unlivable by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade.” For the situation in Gaza to improve, Israel and Egypt must end the blockade, or at the very least loosen it. The United States is one of the only nations that holds the power to bring improvement to the region due to its special relationship with Israel and Egypt.

According to USAID, the United States gives almost $370 million in aid to Egypt and nearly $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually. America’s close and special relationship with both countries give the situation in Gaza hope. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention, and if more U.S. politicians speak against the horrible environment in the Gaza Strip, the additional pressure could potentially ease the blockade and improve the region. The devil is in the details when discussing the Palestinian-Isreali conflict, but improvement is possible if the humanitarian crisis in Gaza receives the attention it deserves.

– Zachery Abunemeh
Photo: Flickr

HarassMapSexual harassment in the form of street harassment (catcalling, wolf-whistling, etc) is something that most women around the world have experienced. In fact, globally, at least 75 percent of women 18 years and older have experienced some form of sexual harassment; that’s at least 2 billion women of the 2.7 billion women who inhabit the earth. While some have used the #MeToo movement as a way to bring light to this issue, others have used technological advancements to combat this reality that most women face. This was the case for HarassMap, created to combat sexual harassment.

The Story of HarassMap

HarassMap was created by a group of four women in Cairo, Egypt; that were fed up with the amount of sexual harassment they were not only experiencing, but also hearing about or witnessing first-hand. These women were fighting sexual harassment in their own ways; one of them was working at a women’s rights organization where she started an anti-harassment program in 2005. She noticed the amount of harassment she and her coworkers experienced while commuting to and from their place of work. In fact, Egypt has one of the highest reported rates of sexual harassment for women wherein 90-99 percent of women 18 and older experienced some sort of harassment. Street harassment was something women in Egypt were used to and tolerated. No one ever did anything to stop it and women did not stand up for themselves nor did they report their experiences.

As these women worked with different NGOs to raise awareness about sexual harassment and focus on forcing people to confront it and discuss it, some of the NGOs lost interest and started supporting legislation that would deal with the legal side of stopping harassment. This didn’t stop the people at HarassMap though. They continued to fight harassment using social standards and eventually got their app developed within a year. Their goal was to shift the blame from the victims to the harassers, encourage intervention from bystanders, give women a safe place to report their harassment or assault without fear of judgment and start a conversation about confronting this epidemic. They launched the app in December 2010, and it has been active ever since.

What is Harassmap?

HarassMap is specifically for women in Egypt. It allows them to anonymously report harassment to the police or let other women know about areas where harassment is high. To report harassment or intervention, all one needs to do is log on to the app or site, input where the harassment or intervention took place, write out the report and submit it. The app then anonymously adds the report to a map as a ping where people can read what took place.

The app focuses on deterrence of harassment by allowing men and women to tell their stories while also praising those who interfere and help when someone is being harassed. The website contains helpful information for visitors, ranging from a how-to guide on interfering and definitions, all the way to legal and psychological advice for those who have been harassed or assaulted. The app itself serves not only as a safe environment where women can report their harassments but also a place to learn about sexual harassment and how to deal with it.

Since the Launch

The app is still active, and its creators have gained worldwide accreditation and won several awards for their tireless efforts to combat sexual harassment and change the conversation surrounding it. Some of these awards stem from Cairo University, World Summit Youth and My Community Our Earth Partnership. The app has also been partnered with Cairo University and other corporations to increase the prevalence of the app and its message. Its developers have also offered classes to combat sexual harassment for businesses and universities to provide a safer environment for women in Egypt. They have also done work outside of Egypt as well, by working with NGOs and setting up similar technology across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Since the debut of the app, different sexual harassment and sexual assault laws have been passed as well. One of the laws, passed in June 2014, makes sexual harassment illegal in Egypt for the first time. Those who are caught harassing can face as few as six months or as many as five years in prison and pay as much as LE 50,000 ($3,000) in fines.

Even though HarassMap is growing and reaching other countries, it is still only available to Egyptians who have access to a smartphone or computer; however, it is encouraging an important conversation. One can hope that women will feel safer on the streets of Egypt and all Egyptians will be able to discuss sexual harassment and assault in a productive and boundary-breaking way.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

Centers of Excellence
Egypt and the United States have recently become dependent on each other in order to assist in each other’s growth, developments and establishments, showing a strong partnership between the two countries. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has collaborated with Egypt to create three academic Centers of Excellence that will focus on research about agriculture, energy and water. In order to begin the process of these academic Centers of Excellence, universities in the United States and Egypt had to form partnerships to focus on each focal point.

Academic Center of Excellence in Agriculture

The United States’ Cornell University and Egypt’s Cairo University are partners for the Academic Center of Excellence in Agriculture (COEA). This is a $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative project that will enhance curricula and research in order to train and equip Egyptian students with the right tools to improve agricultural production in Egypt’s future.

There are three main components of this specific center. The first is the instructional innovation and curriculum development of the academic center. The partnership will establish a new interdisciplinary Master of Science program that will be work-force oriented. This center will also grant opportunities to youth, women and disadvantaged students. The second component is to engage in high quality applied research. The last component includes exchanges, training and scholarship programs.

Academic Center of Excellence in Energy

The next $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative partnership is between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ain Shams University. This will be the Academic Center of Excellence in Energy (COEE). MIT and Ain Shams University will work to build research, education and entrepreneurial capacity to address Egypt’s most pressing energy-related issues.

This academic Center of Excellence has four major components to it. The first is the teaming up of Egyptian faculty and students with interdisciplinary researchers across MIT to develop renewable energy solutions. The next component is to advance and scale up sustainable projects. These universities will also use their partnership to facilitate connections between university researchers and key industrial players in the region to expand Egypt’s solar and wind usage, in addition to other forms of clean energy. Lastly, there will be an emphasis on involving Egyptian women and people with disabilities in the university and providing programs and education for them.

The Center of Excellence in Water

The Center of Excellence in Water (COEW) is a partnership between the American University in Cairo and Alexandria University. The COEW is also a $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative project. These universities are still developing their partnership.

The Centers of Excellence was designed by the USAID and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research with the goal of driving public and private sector innovation, modernization and competitiveness. This $90 million dollar investment will create partnerships between Egyptian public universities and U.S. universities, update university curricula and teaching methods, establish undergraduate and graduate level scholarships and implement exchange programs to foster cross-border learning. This is a breakthrough in education and the professional industry which will work to enhance Egypt as a whole.

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

Female genital mutilation in EgyptFemale genital mutilation has impacted at least 200 million women and girls worldwide, though the exact number is unknown. The practice is most common in western, central and northern Africa, though it also occurs in a few countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world, with 87 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 having undergone the procedure as of 2016. Some progress has been made over the past few decades, thanks to efforts by the Egyptian government and international organizations, but the cultural preference for female genital mutilation in Egypt prevails, and there is much work that needs to be done.

Egypt has the fourth highest rate of female genital mutilation, tied with Sudan. Only Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti are higher, all with at least 90 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 having undergone female genital mutilation. In Somalia, the procedure is nearly universal, at 98 percent.

According to the World Health Organization, there are four main types of female genital mutilation, otherwise known as FGM. These types vary based on what parts of the female genitalia are removed or altered. In Egypt, the most common procedure is Type 1, which includes the partial or full removal of the clitoris.

FGM is condemned internationally for a number of reasons. It has no health benefits, can lead to infections, severe bleeding, infertility and other serious medical problems, is a violation of the rights of women and can result in psychological trauma.

Prevailing Cultural Beliefs

Female genital mutilation in Egypt was banned in 2008 and criminalized in 2016; however, these laws have had little impact on the prevalence of the practice. FGM is seen as an important rite of passage within many communities. It’s viewed as a way to promote female chastity and purity, and many view it as essential for a young woman to get married. According to some Egyptian villagers, husbands will require their brides to undergo the procedure before the wedding ceremony.

It is not only men, however, who support the procedure. While opinions about FGM vary among women, many women do adhere to this cultural tradition and support it being done to their children and grandchildren. According to UNICEF data, only 38 percent of Egyptian women who know about FGM think the practice should end. Egyptian woman Mona Mohamed remembers being tied down to get the procedure when she was ten, her mother and grandmother each holding one of her arms.

Slow Progress

In 2000, for married women, the rate of female genital mutilation in Egypt was 97 percent. Between then and 2014, there was little progress, as the 2014 health survey found that 92 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 had gone through FGM. There has been more significant progress between 2014 and 2018, however, as the rate has been reduced to 87 percent.

While this represents a higher rate of reduction, if progress continues at this rate, it will take more than 34 years to end the practice entirely. Success in ending FGM relies on working at a community level to change cultural perceptions.

Efforts by International Organizations

In 2008, UNICEF and UNFPA created a joint program targeting FGM in the countries where it is the most prevalent. Their program focuses on law reform, research, training medical personnel and fieldworkers, and engaging directly with religious leaders and local communities.

Both Muslim and Christian communities are known to support female genital mutilation in Egypt, so the program works with leaders from both religions to educate them on the realities of FGM. If religious leaders come to agree with international views on FGM, the program then provides resources to help them spread this knowledge in their communities through sermons and family counseling.

To better reach girls and women, the program also launched a national television campaign. By far their most innovative solution for community outreach, however, is an interactive street theatre show on female genital mutilation. The play provides a depiction of FGM and its impact on girls, and afterward, the audience is encouraged to be involved in an open community discussion.

Despite being a culturally-driven practice, FGM is often performed by licensed doctors. The 2014 health survey found that 72 percent of FGM procedures in Egypt was done by a doctor. As a result, it is important to also focus efforts on medical professionals. Beginning in 2013, UNFPA held workshops for the medical staff at hospitals to disseminate accurate knowledge about FGM and provide doctors and nurses with the resources they need to counsel their patients and argue against FGM.

Additionally, UNFPA is working on a legal front to address the lack of legal repercussions for those who perform FGM, in spite of it being criminalized. This involves working with law enforcement personnel and prosecutors to ensure that individuals aren’t able to exploit legal loopholes to avoid conviction.

Hopefully, the efforts of UNFPA, UNICEF and other international and regional partners will continue to have an impact on the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Egypt, protecting the human rights of thousands of women and girls.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Pixabay

Vaccines in Egypt
For the past 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States has assisted the Egyptian government by providing aid to fight vaccine-preventable diseases. Efforts such as strengthening immunization services, responding to public health emergencies and conducting surveillance studies and surveys have contributed to the reduction of these fatal diseases. The CDC has provided financial support for diseases that can be prevented by vaccines in Egypt through the World Health Organization (WHO), which focuses on polio, measles and rubella elimination.

Impeding Access to Vaccines

In 2006, vaccinations in Egypt eradicated wild poliovirus transmissions. The government continues to monitor the environment for wild polioviruses in a program involving the CDC and other organizations. However, despite the efforts of these organizations, many of those living in poverty in Egypt still do not have access to the vaccination. This presents a problem in the eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases since disease such as the wild poliovirus could return.

According to WHO, full immunization coverage for the poorest to the wealthiest populations showed national levels in Egypt to be under 20 percent. Studies show that the high rates of unemployment and low literacy rates contribute to the increase in the population living in poverty. This results in many individuals being unaware of the healthcare and medical aid they are entitled to and leads to the low proportions of immunization within the population.

Many children are also part of the child labor industry. Working interferes with their school attendance and education, resulting in low literacy rates, which perpetuate the ongoing poverty cycle. Without awareness of health and safety maintenance, those who live under the poverty line may not have the necessary knowledge to access vaccinations in Egypt.

Improvements Made in Vaccinations

The Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) in Egypt focuses on saving lives by controlling vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough through constant surveillance and an increase in vaccine coverage. Despite the extreme decline of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases in the past decades, outbreaks of measles in 2013 and 2014 suggests that full immunization coverage is not yet supported for all populations of Egypt.

However, despite 60 percent of the population living under the poverty line and a large number of people not receiving immunizations, resources and efforts towards improving access to vaccinations in Egypt have increased. WHO claims that only 24 cases of measles, 5.9 cases of mumps and 34 cases of rubella were reported in 2017. A drastic decrease compared to decades of consistent outbreaks in the thousands. Part of the progress could be a result of the fact that 94 percent of children aged 12-23 had received measles vaccinations in 2017. Furthermore, in 2008-2009, there was a significant increase in vaccines in Egypt for measles, mumps and rubella, with 95 percent of children having been vaccinated, an increase of 53 percent from 2007.

The Future of Disease Control

The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) works to promote the funding of the Haemophilus influenza vaccine as a part of the PENTA vaccine, a type of vaccine designed to protect the receiver from multiple diseases. The PENTA vaccine will help fight bacterial pneumonia, a communicable disease that contributes to high mortality rates. With WHO supporting the MoHP, the push for programs that fight viral hepatitis is stronger as more resources are being devoted to procuring equipment, allocating funding and the constant surveillance of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

Efforts to control vaccine-preventable diseases are allocating funding to provide coverage for those who may not be able to afford it. Now, increased focus on spreading awareness to the population about the importance and availability of vaccines in Egypt is needed in order to increase coverage and finally eradicate some of the vaccine-preventable diseases in the country.

– Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Egypt
Education is one of the quickest ways for development and equality to happen in a society. Egypt is one of many countries that recognizes the importance of education in general and specifically, girls education.

The country has already made great strides towards equal educational opportunities for girls and progress only continues. In the article below, top 10 facts about girls’ education in Egypt and the implemented plans for development in the country are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Egypt

  1. There is a clear gender gap in Egypt’s education. Studies show that 64 percent of Egyptian girls and women above the age of 9 cannot read. The Egyptian government is doing everything to change this statistic by revamping the entire education system. Great plans for new education reforms and eliminating illiteracy entirely are established.
  2. In support of girls’ education in Egypt, the Ministry of Local Development plans to end illiteracy in just three years, starting in June 2018. The plan focuses on getting girls into safe and clean school early as early as possible.
  3. Egypt is completely redesigning their education system to reach girls.  However, Egypt is focusing on providing an inclusive and quality education for anyone who seeks it, regardless of gender. This goal is perfectly expressed in Egypt Education Reform Project.
  4. The new reform focuses on primary and secondary schooling and rejects superficial approaches to learning, instead of promoting the development of important life skills such as problem-solving abilities. The Minister of Education in Egypt, Dr. Tarek Shawki, explained that the goals of the education system are teaching real-world knowledge and self-understanding. Children will be learning life skills as well as self-reflection.
  5. In support of girls’ education in Egypt, The World Bank is investing $500 million to improve access to quality primary and secondary education. This funding aims to upgrade classrooms and technology, allowing for around 500,000 children to start their education as early as in kindergarten by 2023. This funding will also allow for continued professional development for teachers and supervising staff.
  6. In 2000, the literacy rate for boys aged 15 to 24 was 80 percent and 64 percent for girls of the same age. In 2017, however, the literacy rate increased to 94 percent for boys and 92 percent for girls.
  7. The World Education’s integrated literacy initiative uses health information to teach women to read. The project, funded by the Ford Foundation, teaches women and girls how to read with books on women’s health, such as prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, breastfeeding, and health care for infants and new mothers. This program was so successful it is now standard in Egypt’s adult literacy programs.
  8. Educated women encourage more girls to go to school. One woman explained that once she began her education, her daughter, who was illiterate and had received no prior schooling, felt encouraged to begin literacy training. Girls will learn from their mothers and the women around them that education and empowerment are intertwined.
  9. Many girls are denied the right to an education because they are pushed by their parents and communities into getting married. New education opportunities and developments reject the idea that married women cannot be educated and emphasize that girls’ education in Egypt is key to development and growth.
  10. Investing in women’s education will promote rapid development in Egypt. In school, girls can learn about healthy choices and civic duties, alongside new technology and media. Women will know how to keep records, manage loans and handle other financing programs, allowing for growth in Egypt’s business and economy. This can be done with the help of U.N. Women and other organizations as well. According to the IMF, raising the female labor force participation rate to the male level, coupled with access to employment opportunities, would increase GDP by approximately 34 percent.

Egypt is a great example of how less developed countries can and should be committed to giving girls quality education. Great progress has been made in the country, as presented in the top 10 facts above, but there is room for more improvements.

A great way to stay involved with girls’ education in Egypt and across the world is to support Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act. Contacting U.S. state and national representatives to support this bill ensures that girls’ access to education only continues to improve.

Photo: Flickr

poverty, egypt, life conditions
Egypt is an African country known for its rich culture, extensive history and seemingly otherworldly monuments. However, not many people are familiar with the living conditions in this country. For example, over a quarter of the population in Egypt is below the poverty line. To elaborate on the specifics of the living conditions, 10 facts about life in Egypt are presented in the text below.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Egypt

  1. Ten million children in the country are considered multi-dimensionally poor, meaning they are deprived of daily necessities such as clean water, access to proper health care and education. These children lack some or all of mentioned necessities. What makes the situation even worse is that over 50 percent of the Egyptian population is under the age of 20.
  2. Starting in 2014, the Egypt government began to concentrate on enforcing a reforms program for the country’s economy. The program has yielded gradual improvements and should continue to persevere. As an example, in the fiscal year 2018, GDP grew at a 5.3 percent rate, compared to 4.2 percent in 2017.
  3. In Egypt’s capital, Cairo, roughly 11 million out of the total of 17 million inhabitants live in extra-legally formed housing, otherwise known as the slums. The slums are very underdeveloped forms of shelter for those that cannot afford proper housing and amenities. Fortunately, nongovernmental organization Habitat for Humanity has helped build and renovate roughly 33,000 homes in 33 different communities since 2017.
  4. Inhabitants of the slums don’t have access to basic needs and services such as electricity, water pipes and sewage system. These people, in general, suffer more from asthma, allergies and renal failure because they live in such unsanitary conditions and don’t have as easy access to proper drinking water. The homes that Habitat for Humanity help construct are built with proper, durable materials and employ safe sanitary systems.
  5. The political unrest mixed with the fear that security at ancient sites is not guaranteed has resulted in an increase in unemployment, a devastation in the tourism industry and consequential damage to the country’s economy.
  6. The education system is similar to that of the U.S. in the sense that there are 12 official years and education in municipal school is free. However, the schools, especially those of higher education, are heavily underfunded and a lot of people cannot afford to send their children to higher quality confidential schooling. With the help of CARE, an organization combatting poverty around the globe, education is becoming more available. CARE serves to promote and support education to those who aren’t able to afford it.
  7. Egypt is very rich in its own culture but the country is also influenced by the surrounding countries. This fact has resulted in a very diverse culture as well as the population. The main influences in the country are those from France, other African countries and Mediterranean countries.
  8. Egypt’s total population exceeds 90 million making it the most populated country in the Middle East. The population is diversified and, along with the rich history, this makes the country a real hub for culture.
  9. Egypt’s Minister of Education, Tarek Shawky, has come to the decision to implement teaching English in schools, starting from the kindergarten. This way, children will be given an opportunity to learn English at an early age and to become competitive at the global market.
  10. The country has been in a state of political unrest and turmoil with the price of basic goods and necessities rising obscenely and placing too many people below the poverty line. The streets of Egypt were a site of unrest in which political activists, protesters and journalists were thrown in jail is not so distant history. However, Egypt’s economy and the country as a whole, for the first time in a while, is in with the hopes of bringing this turmoil to peace. A bright moment for the country was participation in the World Soccer Cup held in Russia.

Through the U.S. education system, kids growing up learning about ancient Egypt and ancient Egyptian lifestyles but they never really learn about what life is like in modern day Egypt.

These 10 facts about life in Egypt provide a little bit of insight on the culture and day-to-day life of Egypt’s people in today’s world for the people that do not know what the current situation is. They also give an insight into the country’s potential of the recovery after rough years mixed with war and fear.

– Samantha Harward
Photo: Flickr

Roma Who are the Roma? While believed to have originated from Egypt (hence the slang term ‘gypsy’), the Roma people can actually trace their origins back to northern India. From around 700AD onward, they migrated across Europe, working as entertainers, artisans and farm workers. For a long time, they managed to get by in this fashion without issue.

Moving Through Europe

As time went on, cracks began to appear in their initial acceptance. It seemed that everywhere the Roma went, the ruling class wanted to tie them down or expel them. If they went to places such as Wallachia and Moldova, for example, they would find themselves enslaved. Moving to western European countries like Spain meant death or forced assimilation.

After the last emancipation of the Roma slaves in 1864, it seemed as though the Roma group had begun to make some progress. In the years after the first World War, the Roma began to make moves towards social and political lobbying. The first Roma organization, The General Association of Romanian Roma, appeared and The World Roma Congress had its first meeting in 1933.

Then, the Nazi regime began to target the Roma along with the Jews. During World War II they faced the stripping of their nationality, deportation to labor camps and even mass executions. It is estimated by historians that at least 220,000 Roma were killed in Europe during World War II, but the exact numbers are unknown.

Who Are the Roma?

Now, ask the question today: who are the Roma? One would assume that, in a modern day society that focuses on social inclusion, the Roma would fare better today. Yet, even in the present day, the Roma remain the group the most discriminated against in Europe.

The Roma today find themselves the victims of hate crimes such as having their homes burned or physical assault. In many of these cases, the local police fail to provide them with the protection or justice that they need. The police are also known to discriminate against the Roma and treat them with less dignity than non-Roma.

They also struggle in everyday society due to the disadvantages of prejudice. Despite regulations, situations such as segregated schooling for Roma children and lower wages for Roma workers still exist in Europe. Some Roma even have trouble purchasing land on which they could build homes. This means that even those who want to work for a better life might have trouble achieving it.

Thus, the Roma could remain trapped in their current disadvantaged situation. Consider the fact that 70 percent of the Roma population throughout the world lives in poverty. Many of them live in slums without electricity or running water.

Where Can the Roma Turn to in Search of Hope?

Government intervention seems the only possible way to provide the Roma with the assistance that they need to rise out of their current situation. And indeed, the governments of multiple countries have created programs of varying success, such as the Phare programs of the early 2000’s.

Yet, a 2013 Brigham Young University Paper indicates what might prevent the success of Roma assistance. The paper stated that at least in Romania, the local governments focus upon the integration of the Roma into society. They do not focus on integrating the Roma in a way that will not kill their culture.

Indeed, many Roma still live traditional, nomadic lives and are unwilling to leave them even if it means living in poverty. This culture, however, clashes with the current sedentary European culture. Unless these two cultures can find a compromise in the future, some Roma might still live on the fringes of society.

There are groups like The Minority Rights Group International and Amnesty International that are working to educate people about the Roma by working with the Roma communities and governments. The U.N. has been working with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to address providing business opportunities and social services to the Roma in the country through enacting a two-year “Action Plan for the National Roma Strategy.” They hope to find solutions to many of the problems the Roma face every day.

Ask the question again: who are the Roma? They are a people who have faced countless tragedies in the past and now face an uncertain future. Yet, when given the assistance and understanding that they need, they may be able to find their own place in society where they can thrive.

– Elizabeth Frerking

Photo: Flickr

UNDP Provides Legal Aid in Egypt for Impoverished and Illiterate
For those who are poor or illiterate, understanding and using legal services is often difficult and preventative from obtaining justice. Since 2008, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has worked with the Ministry of Justice to provide free legal aid in Egypt for the impoverished and illiterate, establishing 35 Legal Aid Offices as of 2016.

Free Legal Aid in Egypt

This project focuses on disputes in family courts and handles cases that do not require an attorney. Without this help, those who are impoverished generally cannot afford legal services and the illiterate do not have the skills to successfully fill out the required paperwork. These two populations often intersect, as the poor are more likely to be illiterate.

Financed by UNDP and Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), over 50,000 cases in Egypt have now been assisted by free Legal Aid Offices.

The project also trains staff, holds roundtables for family court judges and assists with digitizing family court records. Approximately 17 training sessions and workshops for family court judges have been organized, reaching over 500 judges and legal aid employees.

Dispute Settlement offices have been upgraded as well, and employees have received training on dispute settlement skills, child rights and personal status laws. Additionally, efforts have been made to influence lawmakers to amend laws that would make the processing of cases more efficient and lead to cases being resolved more quickly.

New Goals, New Connections

Beginning in 2013, new goals were added to the project after an evaluation by an independent consultant of the free legal aid in Egypt. These goals include:

  • Developing adequate training programming
  • Improving court and case management
  • Modernizing hotlines in order to get feedback
  • Increasing dissemination of legal information
  • Designing outreach programs for both literate and illiterate women

The Ministry of Justice is working to establish a central electronic database of court decisions to link electronically to Egypt’s national bank. This connection would make payments awarded by the courts easier to collect.

In December 2014, UNDP, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice, the National Center for Judicial Studies, and the French Cultural Center in Egypt organized a workshop for legal aid employees. This workshop was “to strengthen participants’ knowledge of French legal framework for family mediation and introduce practical tools for mediation based on international best practices and relevance to local family courts.”

Legal Aid in Egypt Empowers Egyptian Women

Approximately one million cases are filed in Egyptian family courts each year, and 80 percent of those are brought by women. Therefore, the UNDP’s legal aid in Egypt is often for women in desperate need of legal services. In fact, over 70 percent of the 50,000 cases handled by the project were filed by women.

Without this support, women — particularly poor and illiterate women — often do not have the resources to settle marital or family disputes. Male family members or spouses can often get away with violent behavior or criminal acts if the woman they’ve harmed is barred from legal aid by a system not amenable to vulnerable populations.

Incidents of Personal Distress

For example, “Yasmin” is an Egyptian woman who faced legal difficulties after her ex-husband kidnapped her oldest daughter. She went to the court on multiple occasions, unable to find a resolution to this problem. However, with the free legal services provided by UNDP, Yasmin was finally able to file her claim in the family court system.

Another woman, Omaima Abdel Khaleq, utilized free legal aid in Egypt to file a domestic violence case against her husband. She explains, “The legal aid office made me aware of what exactly I should do instead of being lost among lawyers.”

Situations like these are not uncommon for women, and the project’s Legal Aid Offices help women complete the required paperwork, as well as provide legal advice about their rights and claims.

Helping the Impoverished and Illiterate

If an individual is illiterate, they are far less likely to be knowledgeable about the laws that protect them (or the person they wish to file a claim against). Without the help of an oftentimes unaffordable attorney or legal services, these people will not be able to access the information they need to correctly file a claim and obtain justice.

Project manager Gihane El Batouty states, “We are helping people themselves — and women themselves — with their legal rights.” UNDP wants to continue to grow this project, as it has become essential to helping the impoverished and illiterate, many of whom are women, access legal aid in Egypt.

Across the globe, UNDP supports similar initiatives in 54 other countries. This support reflects the organization’s commitment to making legal services available to vulnerable populations.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr