Forging Behavior

Children in conflict with the law are trained on blacksmithing as an alternative to detention

Dalia Younis
Children in conflict with the law are trained on blacksmithing as an alternative to detention
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
18 August 2021

Ayman (not his name) looks at his old colleagues - whom he calls "my brothers" - and remembers his first day at the care institution. Finding him crying, they comforted, reassured and helped him adjust to the place quickly. "As they did with me, I learned that I do the same with every fearful new boy”, he says.

Ayman was detained at the age of sixteen after a legal dispute. He spent a long time in the police station, then was placed in a care institution in Alexandria.

Children in conflict with the law are trained on blacksmithing as an alternative to detention
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
"I chose blacksmithing because, when I complete my training, I want to work with my uncles at their workshop. The welding machine also reminds me of the time when I worked with it when I was 14 before I get detained” said Ahmed.

Children in conflict of the law

According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, detaining children in conflict with the law is the last resort for justice. It should be for the shortest possible period and taking the rights and circumstances of every child into consideration.

The Egyptian Child Law has a range of alternative measures to detention or full-time placement in care institutions for dealing with certain cases of petty crimes, such as engaging children in training and rehabilitation programs and community service.

UNICEF Justice for Children program supports the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Child Law, and the alternative measures to detention and placement in social care institutions. With governmental and non-governmental entities, the organization supports every child in conflict with the law in a way that considers age, circumstances and the gravity of offense. The project “Justice System Reform to Address Marginalization of Children and Young People in Egypt” is funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Egypt.

Shifting to an alternative

Two months after being sent to the institution, the social worker in charge of following up on Ayman's case submitted a periodic follow-up report to the court. He praised Ayman for his good behavior during that period.

Based on this report, the court ruled to apply alternative measures to detention and placement in Ayman's case and enroll him in vocational training training and a rehabilitation program. Thanks to this court ruling, he celebrated his seventeenth birthday with his family at home and came to the vocational center three days a week for training and follow-up.

Friendship at the workshop

At this center, teenagers can choose between different trainings according to their age group and capabilities. "I chose blacksmithing because, when when I finish the training, I want to work with my uncles at their workshop,” he said, “the welding machine also reminds me of the time before I got detained as I used to work on it back then.”

In the workshop, Ayman met his colleague Karim (unreal name). Friendship grew between the two, as they realized they shared the same passion for blacksmithing.

Karim, 16, learned these skills for the first time during his stay in the institution. He was particularly interested in learning how to use the welding machine because he had worked in a store that sells it before, but he did not know how to use it.

For Ayman, this training is much better than the time he spent under police custody before the measures took effect. Karim agrees, adding: "The treatment was brutal at the detention room. Here, they use words like ‘please’ and treat us with respect. Where there is respect, you can hardly make something bad.”

Training aftermath

Ayman's future plans are not limited to blacksmithing. He’s in the process of getting back to school by the help of the social worker as he dropped out due to detention.

"The goal is for children to understand the consequences of their actions, take responsibility and commit to the decisions of the court while staying with their families,” said Mrs. Rana Younes, Justice for Children Specialist at UNICEF, “ultimately, this will protect the society and make these children less likely to repeat their offenses.”

Ayman recounts that, when he returned home, he retained some of the positive habits he had acquired from the training: “I had a regular schedule for eating and sleeping. I found myself following the same schedule at home. It seems that I got used to discipline.”