In recent years, through government and civil society efforts, Egypt has made major progress in the protection of children, reforming legislation and providing services for the most vulnerable children. However, important challenges remain, particularly with regard to insufficient resource allocations to child protection agencies as well as the lack of specialised services for preventing and responding to the key child protection issues.
Violence against children, in its different forms, is widespread in Egypt. Surveys demonstrate that the use of corporal punishment in schools may compromise the already very fragile learning process and, in many cases, drive children out of school. In a study on corporal punishment in disadvantaged communities , 81% of children declared, they were beaten at home and 92% were beaten at school. The prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) reaches 91% in the age group 15-49 and 74% for girls aged 15-17 years . This harmful practice is widely supported by communities, particularly in rural areas. The medicalization of FGM is a cause of concern as 72% were performed by medical doctors in 2008.
The exact number of children living on the streets is unknown. Available studies go from 5,000 to 18,000. However these numbers do not reflect the reality. UNICEF estimates the number to be in the tens of thousands of children. The Child Law amendment of 2008 marked an important step towards the realization of children’s rights in Egypt. The implementation, however, has been slow. The establishment of Child Protection Committees in different governorates has been limited despite its enormous potential for improving the coordination of services for children at risk. In addition, specialised judicial services such as children’s courts, social workers and Police units are not yet fully operational as defined by the Child Law.
Depending on the source and definition used, it is estimated that between 7% to 21% of children between the ages of 6-14 are working (boys more than girls), 81% of working children are located in rural areas . For working children aged 10-14, 53% work in agriculture and 28% work in construction, which are considered hazardous occupations.UNICEF’S Interventions UNICEF has three main strategic interventions:
The following are some of the specific interventions:
• Supporting legal protection services such as legal representation and social reintegration programmes for children in contact with the law as offenders, victims or witnesses.
• Assisting children living on the streets and other children without family care through outreach programmes, family reunification and reintegration, and psychosocial support in drop-in centres. Approximately 2000 children living on the streets are reached each year, with a comprehensive package of services such a basic health, psychosocial support and reintegration opportunities.
• Strengthening specialised protection agencies such as the child helpline, children’s courts, family counselling centres, police units dealing with minors, to respond to children’s care and protection needs.
• Public and community mobilization for the awareness, promotion and adoption of non-violent means of child rearing and abandonment of FGM/C.
• Supporting civil society groups in the promotion and defense of children’s rights.
Programme Expected Results
• Child protection committees, community networks and social workers are able to fulfil their role in identifying and responding to the needs of children at risk in the most disadvantaged communities.
• A comprehensive and sustainable legal assistance and social support programme for children in contact with the law reaching at least 2,000 children per year.
• Government owned interventions provide comprehensive outreach and reintegration services to more than 2,000 street children, in close collaboration with civil society.
• Specialised child protection services as defined by the Child Law are operational.
• Increased percentage of families opposing FGM/C and rejecting physical punishment as a mean of child rearing and are aware of alternative child rearing practices.
• A network of religious leaders (Muslim and Christians), advocate and promote a peaceful and non-violent environment for children.
• Policy dialogue involving civil society, government and parliamentarians leads to better recognition and respect of children’s rights in national legislation and government policies.