Egypt - According to official papers they are children, according to reality they are responsible men working day and night to support their families and save them from poverty. Their slender bodies and rough hands coarse and innocent eyes are the clearest signs of a society that does not have mercy, and officials that only care about how to maintain their positions.
Helplessness and powerlessness is what you can read in the eyes of parents whose children work in brick factory in the southern governorate of Giza in Egypt, in an industry that is considered one of the most oldest professions known to the Egyptians since the days of Pharaohs, they inherit its secrets from generation to generation, especially the ones related to how to select the appropriate clay and amount of fire needed.
Brick industry is concentrated on both sides of the Nile River, one can notice the factories that look like a Egyptian obelisk stand tall and black smoke billowing from them day and night, and they are primitive ovens to burn the clay inside at a temperature exceeding one thousand degrees Celsius to prepare the pricks needed for construction work. Nearly 10 thousands children work around these flames, while the laws that organize the labour work don’t know antrhing about them.
Stages of pain
Redda Salam head of the brick industry and craftsmans union in South Helwan governorate of Giza says that there are 1100 brick factories in Helwan, and there are nearly 10 to 12 children work in each factory without any legal cover, where there are three contractors in each factory that bring children to work in the three sectors of each factory, the production line, and the dried bricks, a stage to enter a brick in oven, and finally loading the brick from the oven into transport vehicles.
Salam explained the stages of brick industry and said that in the first stage the contractor depends on more than 7 children in cutting brick, and they spend so much time that reaches 13 consecutive hours, they are paid around 35 Egyptian pounds daily. While the second stage needs 12 children at least for the collection of bricks and putting it in ovens and the daily wage for them depends on the production, and they work from 4 am till 14:00. The contractor of the third stage target children aged from 12 to 17-year-old and they carry a wood on their lean back to hold the bricks and every time they carry 17 to 20 bricks and they are paid half what the adults earn at this stage despite the equal working hours, and the same amount of bricks, adults are paid 10 Egyptian pounds, while children are paid around 5 Egyptian pounds, although they may carry up to 1000 to 2000 bricks a day.
I wish I was able to go to school and learn play and eat ice cream like other children with this sentence Hassan Abdullah (10 years) expresses his ultimate dream, instead of carrying a school bag he carries bricks, and it has been a year now since he dropped out school and joined the growing numbers of Egyptian children who are driven by poverty or other social conditions to drop school and start work. Hassan says that he goes to work at 6 am and work for 8 to 12 hours in carrying the bricks under the burning sun to get them ready for oven.
Ibrahim Salam who lives in the same village says that every now and then we wake up on a tragedy where accidents happen to the children of these factories that don’t provide safety for these kids
Each of these children are aged between 7 to 14 years old, dropped out of school, and came to work in these factories to support their families and they are exposed daily dangers.
Ahmed Hamdy- 10 years old – started working at brick factories when he was 8 years old, he was forced to work like other kids in the village, His father was separated from his mother, who was unable to support his seven siblings, so she decided to be bring him to a contractor to provide him a job opportunity. Ahmed says he wakes up every day at 4 am to go to work where he carries more than 500 bricks daily on his back to and put them into oven, he says that he feels very tired and he feels pain in his leg, his ultimate hope is to sit down to rest, but the contractor abuse him and force him back to work.
Ali Abdul Sattar - 9 years old - who seems, despite his young age as big man because of the way he speaks with bitterness: I have seven brothers and I am the youngest I dropped out of school because education has no value, my oldest brother holds a Bachelor of Arts and still he works with us here in the factory like us, he wasted his life in education, he came to work in the brick factory because of unemployment so what is the value of education !!
A study issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Manpower reveale that poverty and ignorance are behind this phenomenon of child labor, there are more than 2 million and 786 thousand children working in difficult conditions for long periods, exceed the adult working hours.
The study showed that almost all child workers do not have any legal protection, and work on an informal basis and without working documents or health certificates and that one-third of those suffering from ill-treatment, and subjected to various forms of violence from employers and supervisors.
Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics stressed that 9.3% of Egyptian children aged from 5 to 17 are involved in child labour while 61.9% of the total working children are employed in the family without salary 88.9% of Egyptian children aged from 15 to 17 are involved in child labour 40 percent of working children are not enrolled in school because of the high costs of education and insufficient family income to afford such expenses ..
A constitutional referendum was held in Egypt on 14 and 15 January 2014 and anew constitution was approved, which contains more detail on socio-economic rights, including education. Articles 80 and 89 of the Egyptian Constitution of 2014 prohibit trafficking in persons and exploiting women and children. Article 80 requires the state to “provide children with care and protection from all forms of violence, abuse, mistreatment, and commercial and sexual exploitation. Article 89 prohibits “all forms of slavery, oppression, [the] forced exploitation of human beings, [the] sex trade, and other forms of human trafficking.”
Chairman of brick industry workers union recorded grave breaches that violate the rights of children , saying that the new constitution for the year 2014 has already identified childhood at 18 years, and allows the child from the age of 12 work in a business suit their ages and do not affect their physical and mental health, but what happens is the opposite, children of brick factories work in a very dangerous environment for more than 10 hours of continuous work which is a violation to the Labour Law which set the working hours to 8 hours for adults only
Egypt has ratified both ILO (International Labor organization) convention No. 138 (minimum age convention) and ILO convention No. 182 (convention concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor)
Convention No. 138, 1973 stipulates that each Member which ratified the Convention shall specify a minimum age to employment or work within its territory. However, the minimum age specified shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling and, in any case, shall not be less than 15 years.
On 1 June 1999 Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor was endorsed. Article 3 states that for the purpose of this Convention, the term the worst forms of child labor comprise: All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and forced or compulsory labor. Work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
Accordingly, and under these international agreements and commitments, Egypt prepared in 1996, the Child law No. 12 Act of 1996, as amended by Law No. 126 of 2008, which devotes a separate chapter on the criminalization of child labour, the law prohibits child labour before reaching 15 years old, also prohibits training before reaching 13 years old. Children from the age of 12 to 14 years may work in seasonal jobs that does not harm their health or development and does not prejudice their education after the approval of the Minister of Education.