In this issue we report on two NIPSA Funded Projects:
Toiling in El Minia Improving the plight of workers in Egyptâ€™s Limestone Quarries
Tools for Solidarity Supporting Income Generation for Artisan Tailors in Tanzania
ÂŠ Christian Aid / Tabitha Ross
A Chip off the Old
Making progress on quarry workers’ rights in Egypt
A Christian Aid project seeking to improve labour rights two years, writes Jonathan Hanson. Christian Aid’s analysis of poverty is that, more than just a lack of income, it is to do with the misuse of power, be it economic, social, personal or political. ‘Poverty’, as the Christian Aid Poverty Over manifesto puts it, ‘is disempowerment, and the injustices that result.’ In the limestone quarries of El Minia, Egypt, these injustices have resulted in thousands of workers being deprived of basic labour and human rights, such as holidays, decent wages and social security. But a Christian Aid project, begun in 2010 and supported by NIPSA, is seeking to challenge this situation and empower quarry workers and their families to claim their rights. Last year was a year of great change in Egypt. The collapse of the Mubarak regime, the installation of an interim administration, the first free elections under the new political system: all of these are 2
harbingers of a new dawn for the Middle East’s most populous nation. In the short term, however, the changes in Egypt and the wider region have actually increased the challenges facing the 16 million Egyptians who already lived below the lower poverty line. In addition, assessments by Christian Aid partners suggests that, with a stuttering economy, returning migrant workers and a reduction in remittances, an increasing number of Egyptians are struggling to make ends meet. Last year was also a year of change for the quarry workers of El Minia. Located in a governorate south of Cairo, El Minia is home to 300 square kilometres of limestone quarries, on which 25,000 men and their families depend. The work is brutal: long hours, hard work, low pay. To try to change these conditions, Christian Aid has been
in El Minia’s quarries is already making a difference after supporting the work of a local organisation, Wadi el Nil (WEN), since 2007. 2010 saw the launch of a four-year project to uphold labour rights in the quarries. The project focuses on addressing key labour concerns, such as health and safety, improving quarry workers’ participation in local life, improving access to services, and providing training for quarry workers’ wives, to increase family income levels. The project also aims to have established a fully functioning and selfsustaining union, with a membership of at least 3000 by the end of the three-year period. Already the project has made progress. In 2011 WEN held awareness meetings throughout the different quarries, educating quarry workers on their basic rights under Egyptian and international law. They also held detailed training days for
activists, focusing on issues like leadership skills, freedom of association and crisis management. Working with quarry workers’ leaders, quarry owners and local government officials, WEN also supported dialogue between these stakeholders to agree improvements in working conditions. Substantial progress was made in September 2011, when the quarry worker’s union was officially registered. As one of the first independent trade unions in the post-Mubarak Egypt, and with a membership of hundreds already, it is poised to make a tangible difference in the lives of the quarry workers and their families. Indeed, a focus on families is the final element of the WEN project. Collaborating with the wives of the quarry workers, WEN educates them about their rights, teaches them life skills and helps with leadership development. 3 © Christian Aid / Tabitha Ross
They also offer vocational training and help in setting up small businesses, with a particular focus on women whose husbands can no longer work due to ill health. A little extra income every month can make a big difference to families who live near the poverty line, and can even make the difference between survival and destitution. Sahar Yusef is one such individual. With help from WEN, she now has four micro-enterprises. “I am the breadwinner in our family now. My husband used to work in the quarries but he had an operation on his back and he can’t work anymore. But I support us through my business.” In late 2011, the project and union it had helped to establish, were put to the test. Some of the quarry owners in El Minia had decided to increase the working hours from eight to ten per day. They also planned to base the daily wage on the production of ten thousand, rather than six thousand, blocks per day. An unrealistic target, this would effectively mean a reduction in the daily wage of 15 – 25 Egyptian pounds (£1.54 - £2.57). The quarry workers’ union reacted to this by raising awareness amongst the workers of the planned changes, threatening to strike and arranging a protest at the governor’s offices. This concerted action worked and the results were impressive. Not only were the increases in working hours dropped, but the daily wage was actually increased by five Egyptian lira ((£0.51). The event also proved that the new union can already represent and unify the quarry workers. Wadi el Nil’s ‘Upholding Labour Rights’ project is now into its third year. With the support of NIPSA and other organisations, great progress has already been made. Workers and their families have been empowered to demand better rights and services, and given more opportunities to work their own way out of poverty. But much work remains to be done. The third and fourth years of the project will focus on extending the remit of the current activities, reaching more workers and their wives, and expanding the size and influence of the union. And maybe then, to turn the Christian Aid definition on its head, instead of poverty there will be prosperity, instead of disempowerment, a united workforce who know and demand their rights, and instead of the injustices, a working environment where employee and employer can work together in mutual respect and equality. Pictured Left; Sahar Yusef since her husband, a former quarry worker, had an accident and can no longer work, Sahar is now the main breadwinner for her family, running several small businesses including this shop.
4 © Christian Aid / Tabitha Ross
Above: Members of the Global Solidarity Committee and Champions together with workers from Tools for Solidarity at their Belfast Workshop.
At the end of September 2011 Tools for Solidarity filled a container with 424 sewing machines, knitting machines, material and other items. It was sent from Belfast via Rotterdam to Dar es Salaam where it arrived at the end of November. The container was cleared and transported over 700 miles to Mwanza by lorry. The container has been kept by MSTC and is being used for storage for the machines sent.
From October the centre has provided sewing machines to 180 tailors and provided training to 200 tailors. The centre not only provides sewing machines and training to artisans. It is also involved in:
Treadle production has been carried out using local metal fabrication units and this has resulted in the employment of six people . The money spent on purchasing the treadles (ÂŁ,4000) has been kept within the local Jane Madete, the MSTC manager economy benefiting the local informed Tools for Solidarity of community. its safe arrival with all the sewing Fundi training: MSTC have machines and cargo intact. trained two mechanics who will Since October the MSTC manager assist MSTC in the maintenance has supplied monthly reports on of machines supplied in rural the progress of the project
areas. They have also carried out training for technical officers in other regions who are operating a tailoring artisan support programme.
Emmanuel refurbishes his first sewing machine 5
Above: John Wood explains the work being done at Tools for Solidarity to members of the Global Solidarity Committee and Champions
The training I got from SIDO-MSTC on maintenance and repair of sewing machines influenced my career, Iâ€™m now capable of undertaking all necessary maintenances to any kind of sewing machine. Currently, I have many customers from different places of Magu District, this helps me to be capable of sustaining my livelihoods.
these artisans this is the first time that they will have had any formal tailoring training. It can make a huge difference to themselves and their groups as can be seen from comments they gave Tools for Solidarity during an evaluation undertaken last year.
Although I have been a tailor for quite some time, I could not know how to make suit but when I got (Fundi at Nyamikoma) the trainings on dress designing from SIDO-MSTC I Since April 2012 MSTC has been conducting started to make suits. Many people are now coming training for a mechanic and personnel from a to me for suits this has really impressed me and small Tanzanian NGO from Kigoma region called helped to improve my income. WADS (Women in Development and Solidarity). (Female Tailor (35 yrs) Kwimba District) This organisation After realizing that the SIDO-MSTC machines were In March 2012 - 55 sewing machines were supplied, sold at cheaper price, I decided to have two. This over 90% supplied to the Mari region. 56 artisans has really helped my income and was able to buy a received training in business skills - 20 of whom took plot of land on which I have already started house a one week free training course in embroidery and construction. 36 took a similar course in dress design. For most of (Male Tailor (46 yrs) Kahama)
MSTC was established in October 2007 to assist the tailoring sector to develop and improve the income generation of the tailors. Targeting primarily rural areas and women the project set out to meet the needs of the tailors within 4 regions of Tanzania located around Lake Victoria. These regions are Mwanza, Mara, Shinyanga and Kagera.
The project has proved to be extremely popular amongst the target group delivering a quality service. Following some initial difficulties the project has provided over 1000 sewing machines and training to 300 people between Jan 2008 and September 2011 As the manager has developed new skills and understanding the project has started to deliver higher levels of training that were lacking in the first stage of the project. Following a visit by Tools for Solidarity last year and the renting of a house to provide free accommodation training has become much easier to provide and women can now afford to come and receive the training which makes a real difference to their businesses.
Tools for Solidarity commissioned a survey to ask the tailors what support they needed and found that training and material support at the top of peoples list. Two people from Tools for Solidarity visited in 2007 to train and help establish the centre with the aim to support the centre to deliver an effective programme which would be managed by Tanzanians. In order to do this the project was set The funding from NIPSA has enabled the project to up to operated on a self financing basis. continue to provide high levels of training and to increase the number of machines supplied to artisans.
How can you help? Raising Money The challenge is there for members and branches to work up fund raising ventures.
Above: Mauwa Songolo from the Federation of Women for Peace and Development (FEPADE) - Villa, Congo receives her training. She will be able to use her skills to generate an income for herself and her organisation at the same time as she will be able to service machines in her home country, thus benefiting local tailors.
The centre has also taken on a new role in training up other organisations to operate and run small scale tailoring projects similar to MSTC. This has already happened for a project in Kigoma and Tools for Solidarity is looking to use the skills and knowledge of the staff at MSTC to assist the development of a tailoring project in Uganda. In providing two months technical and managerial training for members of the Women Rights Initiative (WORI) they will assist them to deliver an effective and sustainable programme for women tailors in the Busoga region. This south-south co-operation is only possible due to NIPSA financial support of the development of MSTC. A visit by MSTC manager to Belfast is planned for September 2012 in which Tools for Solidarity hope to enable her to network and develop her own links with other organisations who send sewing and tailoring materials, thus ensuring the long term sustainability of the project.
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Postcode Staff No. Employer Work Location Above: Each tailor that gets a sewing machine from the MSTC has the opportunity to receive one week of free training in skills development and business. This class is provided by our partner in Tanzania - Small Industry Development Organisation (SIDO). Views expressed in this Newsletter are not, unless otherwise stated, the views of NIPSA.
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