The Challenges Facing Egypt’s Female Migrant Workers

Source: The Washington Institute

Author(s): Eman Elwarakky

Original Link:

Safiya, 30, wakes up to the sound of her mother yelling, “Get up now or the car will leave without you.” A new morning brings with it the same misery: Safiya is one of thousands of migrant workers in rural Egypt who, driven by poverty to pick grapes during the harvest season, are forced to endure physical and psychological hardships to earn a living for themselves and their families.

In the 1960s film based on Yusuf Idris’ novel The Sinners, the character Aziza—played by Faten Hamama—is forced to work to feed her children and ailing husband. Aziza’s struggles are typical of real migrant workers, and although more than fifty years have passed, the film still has an enduring impact on its viewers and reflects the intractability of the challenges migrant workers still face today. Migrant workers continue to lack protection or recognition from unions or labor laws, with their fate instead left in the hands of employers, contractors, and recruitment agents. Female migrant workers in particular struggle with a lack of legal protections guaranteeing their rights and able to put a stop to the abuses they face from employers and recruitment agents. The women often work long hours on indoor farms, with only one hour to rest, for a daily wage of 50 Egyptian pounds (approximately $2.79).


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