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FEATURE STORY

Why are men envying women in Luxor, Egypt?

March 2, 2014

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • After years of tourism flourishing in Upper Egypt, Luxor is facing recession.
  • Labor Intensive projects aim to provide the unemployed with a safety net to lessen their risk of falling deeper into poverty.
  • By the end of 2013, the program had already created about a quarter of a million person-days in jobs.

Luxor lies on the banks of the River Nile, almost 700 km south of Cairo, a mere 70 minute plane ride. It is a city that embodies thousands of years of human history. The first things you pass on your way from the airport are the ancient temples of Luxor and Karnak. But after years of tourism flourishing in Upper Egypt, Luxor is facing recession. Boats rest their sails on the banks of the Nile, and horse-drawn carts line the roadsides, waiting for the tourists driven away by Egypt’s recent upheavals.

The population of the governorate of Luxor is about 1.5 million. Most employment is related to tourism, but the current fall in the number of tourists has pushed unemployment to unprecedented levels. Finding a job and securing a daily income have become a real challenge for most of Luxor’s citizens.

Men’s Envy

In one village in Tod district though, the situation is better for a group of young women working on a project run by the Abu Baker Society for Community Development. Young women talked about how happy they were getting the opportunity to work on maternity and child health initiatives for two years, something that will provide them income and experience, and reduce the economic burden of their households - a privilege many young men are now deprived of. 

The girls are envied by the men. 

“The project was a chance to get a job,” said Sara Sayed Ahmed, its secretary. “Young men envy us.” She said the community was accepting the women’s guidance on promoting better hygiene and health.

Open Quotes

It also aims to provide the unemployed with a safety net to lessen their risk of falling deeper into poverty during the current economic crisis Close Quotes

Afrah Alahmadi
Senior Human Development Specialist

The project is one of a number of labor-intensive projects, partly funded by the World Bank in Egypt and put into place by the country’s Social Fund for Development with civil society groups and other government and governorate departments. Five supervisors work in this health project, each of them overseeing a group of 10 female community health promoters who offer mentoring and advice.

Afrah Alahmadi, the Senior Human Development Specialist in charge of the project, says it targets poor communities in poor districts in rural Egypt. It also aims to provide the unemployed with a safety net to lessen their risk of falling deeper into poverty during the current economic crisis. While addressing an immediate need for income, the project also contributes toward asset building and community services.

Egypt … Gift of the Nile

Because Egypt is effectively the gift of the Nile, owing its existence to its waters, agrarian land on both banks of the river needs to be protected from erosion, and the river cleared of weeds. 

For this reason, the project has adopted a sub-project to protect 500 meters of river bank in Humaidat village, Esna district, with a budget exceeding 1.5 million pounds (about US$215,000). The sub-project, planned for completion in August 2014, aims to create 9,000 person-days of employment.

Humaidat is part of a larger scheme funded by Egypt’s Emergency Labor Intensive Investment Project to protect the Nile River banks in 15 governorates, and clearing weeds from more than 5,500 km of canals. It is run by the social development fund with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation and civil society groups.

Ali Abdel Latif el-Maghrabi, the project contractor, hires laborers from Humaidat and its surrounding villages. Young men fill sand bags and stack them along the river banks to protect agricultural land. They are paid 50 Egyptian pounds a day for working on the project.

Men in these villages have seen a drop in other jobs, with work scarce in the last three months. “I used to work harvesting sugar cane,” says Abdo. “Then jobs became scarce … I am happy to have a job when other young men are still looking for one.”

Providing millions of daily jobs

The US$200 million labor intensive project aims to create temporary employment by the time it finishes at the end of December 2015. According to Afrah, the human development specialist, by the end of December 2013, the program had already created about a quarter of a million person-days in jobs - 79 % of them in Upper Egypt, with 90 % of those offered to youth.