The National Council for Women (NCW) has initiated a project to address the economic drivers of irregular migration in Egypt.
The NCW, in partnership with the European Union, is targeting female heads of households seeking income-generating opportunities to protect families and youths searching for employment opportunities from the dangers of irregular migration.
According to the latest statistics conducted by the National Centre for Social and Criminological Research (NCSCR), there are 11 governorates in Egypt that have the largest number of irregular migrants: Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Qalioubiya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Beheira, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Fayoum, Assiut, Luxor, and Minya. The NCW chose Luxor, Minya, Beheira, and Gharbiya as starting points, providing an alternative to irregular migration through enterprise development and work opportunities for women and youth.
According to May Mahmoud, manager of Addressing the Economic Drivers of Irregular Migration in Egypt, the project provides comprehensive programmes on vocational and entrepreneurship training, as well as the establishment of incubator/production units and Business Development Service (BDS) units to ensure sustainability of the activities after the end of the scheme. “The project also creates linkages and partnerships with the private sector and businesses to meet their required needs of qualified human resources,” Mahmoud said.
The venture, according to Mahmoud, supports startups and owners of existing Micro Small and Medium Enterprises by providing a package of various services through BDS units established at NCW branches along with incubation facilities and production units in the governorates.
Rehab Abu Arab, from Beheira, said she had been trained on making copper jewellery. “The council has conducted several workshops at our village. They taught us how to use different equipment and provided us with the raw materials for free,” Abu Arab said.
According to Abu Arab, further workshops on marketing and other business development skills are yet to take place. “I have participated with my products at several exhibitions whether in Cairo or Sharm El-Sheikh where I was exposed to a different community than that of my village.”
Karim Al-Sarhani, coordinator of the project in Beheira, said the training aims at developing business management skills and entrepreneurial personality traits of women to encourage them to start their own micro-enterprises.
They will also be trained on financial awareness, project marketing, pricing, financing and project management. “The products produced by the trainees are to be circulated among them according to performance,” Al-Sarhani said.
Mahmoud said the plan also includes training women on the basics of food processing and how to produce products including pickles and dried vegetables, and fruits such as tomatoes, raisins, figs, juices, jam, and sauces. “Trainees are also taught the processing and packaging of fruits and vegetables. This is in addition to training them on producing several kinds of cheeses: double cream cheese and mozzarella, as well as yoghurt with its different kinds,” Mahmoud said.
The enterprise, according to Mahmoud, is a continuation of the Strategy to Combat Irregular Migration.
Ayman Zohri, head of the Egyptian Society for Migration Studies and a migration professor at the American University of Cairo, said that searching for any job opportunity is the main reason for irregular migration. Ninety-nine per cent of irregular immigrants are from 18 to 28, Zohri said, adding that most of them come from rural areas, and that at times one boat could carry almost all illegal migrants from one village.
According to Zohri, the United Nations High Commissioner for Egyptian Affairs, indicated that Egypt is the world’s second country when it comes to exporting illegal immigration after Bulgaria. The numbers of illegal immigrants globally, according to Zohri, range from 20 to 30 million. Italy and Spain are the countries that bear the burden of illegal immigration, followed by Germany, he said. Egypt signed an agreement with Italy in 2007 on resettlement, which allows the return of illegal immigrants from Italy.
The project will also establish the Women’s Entrepreneurs Network whose aim is to connect women entrepreneurs and business owners with each other, as well as with the labour market, relevant institutions, and associations of women and businessmen, Mario Daniel, project coordinator in Minya governorate, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 8 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly