A helping hand for Cairo's working girls
Sixteen year-old Samah works in a printing shop in West Helwan, a poor suburb on the outskirts of Cairo. A bright eyed, talkative girl, she has to work to support her sick father and six younger brothers and sisters.
As a girl, Samah faces different kinds of problems at work than a boy would. While she too is subjected to long hours of hard work, Samah also faces the risk of sexual harassment and abuse, and the possibility of serious psychological damage. Recently, however, her working conditions have improved.
“I used to work a lot more, sometimes without a chance to rest,” she says. “Now I get a one hour break in the middle of the day.”
The owners of the printing shop were persuaded to reduce Samah’s work hours by representatives from a program run by the Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) with support from UNICEF. The program identifies girls who need help, either to stay in school or to receive vocational training and improve their work conditions.
When girls first come to the centre, they receive a medical check-up and meet a psychologist to assess their overall situation, as well as their abilities and aptitudes. Workers at the centre focus on bringing out the best in each girl, encouraging her to voice her opinions and concerns.
Samah learnt about the ERC after they approached her employer.
“They’re great here. They are ready to help if anything goes wrong and I feel that they really care about me,” she says.