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Egypt sees its first maids syndicate

Egyptian domestic workers seek to protect their rights by founding a syndicate which will lobby for rights and work regulations

Bassem Abo Alabass, Monday 17 Sep 2012
Egypt maids
Female domestic workers face abuse across the Middle East (Photo: Reuters)
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Officially registered with the Ministry of Manpower in early September, Egypt’s independent syndicate of maids is the first legal body to regulate and protect female domestic workers in the country.

The syndicate is the result of an initiative by the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE), which launched a project to protect domestic workers last year.

Abdel-Moneim Mansour, the director of the project and one of the founders of the syndicate, told Ahram Online on Monday that EACPE in 2010 started a study of domestic workers in four governorates in Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria, Beheira, and Kafr El-Sheikh) along with local NGOs.

“Now there are 300 members of the syndicate, and we expect 2,000 by the end of this year,” said Mansour.

He added that the monthly subscription is only LE5 ($0.8) per person.

The syndicate will set legal rules which regulate the working relationship between maids and their employers; this proposed form will be handed over to the next parliament, to be included in Egypt’s labour law.

“The Ministry of Labour rejected the name 'syndicate of domestic workers', so we have changed it to 'syndicate of monthly-paid workers,'” Mansour told Ahram Online.

Kamal Abbas, general co-ordinator for the Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), said that launching the syndicate is a good start for protecting these marginalised categories of workers.

“It’s difficult to work out the exact number of maids as they work in different places,” Abbas told Ahram Online.

In June 2011, the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) global convention on domestic workers was adopted, and has since been ratified by Uruguay and Philippine.

“We will call the government to join this convention,” Mansour said.

Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys censuses in 117 countries place the global number of domestic workers at around 53 million. However, with many workers unregistered, experts believe that the total number could be as high as 100 million.

In developing countries, domestic workers make up around 4 to 12 per cent of wage employment. Around 83 per cent of these workers are women or girls, and many are migrant workers.

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