World Day against Child Labour

ILO marks the World Day against Child Labour 2017 with songs

The ILO Cairo Office celebrated the World Day against Child Labour on 4 June 2017 with a unique musical performance of “Children of Egypt Choir” led by the international Maestro Selim Sahab.

Communiqué de presse | 5 juin 2017
Cairo, Egypt (ILO News)- The ILO Cairo Office celebrated “the World Day against Child Labour” in Cairo on 4 June 2017, in partnership with the Ministry of Manpower, the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, the Federation of Egyptian Industries and Tahya Misr Presidential Fund.

In his keynote address, Mr. Mohamed Saafan- the Ministry of Manpower confirmed that the child labour is a social and moral issue and it is important to have a clear strategy to combat child labour in Egypt.

“It is necessary to find decisive solutions to this problem, especially to eliminate the worst forms of child labour”, said Saafan in his speech that was delivered by Undersecretary, Mr. Adel Raslan.

Mr. Peter van Rooij, ILO Cairo Office Director highlighted the ongoing collaboration with Egypt and the urgency of working collectively to face child labour, and ultimately ending it by 2025, as stated in the sub objective 7 of the Sustainable Development Goal 8.

He shared “good news” with the audience as “We are witnessing a global decline in the number of children engaged in child labour at a global level; decreasing from 246 million in the year 2000, to 168 million in 2012, and it was projected to decrease further to below 134 million in 2017.”

Mr. Peter van Rooij in his speech- read out on his behalf by Ms. Badra Alawa, ILO Chief Technical Advisor- confirmed that the governments are not fully responsible for breaking that cycle alone. “But sounded positive that the ILO and its development partners in Egypt through their joined efforts can  reach a collective framework to face child labour in Egypt and to raise awareness”, he added.

70% of child labourers in Egypt work in agriculture

Speaking at the event, ILO’s Regional Child Labour Expert, Ms. Hayat Osseiran said that 70% of child labourers in Egypt work in agriculture (which is 10% higher than the global percentage) without neglecting other important sectors of child labour such as small enterprises, service sectors, construction and in the streets.

She added “Child labour exposes kids to all types of physical and psychological dangers, and depriving them from education will definitely have a negative impact on their future.”

Ms. Manal Shahin, the Head of The Programmes Sector at the presidential initiative Tahya Misr said that marginalized populations are in the heart of their development programmes, and that the lack of balanced development is the main reason of rural migration.

She revealed that they have established 17 mobile units to trace homeless children and offer vocational training to those who cannot complete their education.

From her side, Dr. Maysa Shawky, the Deputy to the Minister of Health and Population, and President of National Council for Childhood and Motherhood explained the relationship between prohibiting child labour and caring about the health and welfare of Egyptian Children.

The celebration brought together more than 300 participants including representatives from Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Social Solidarity, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of International Cooperation and Investment, League of Arab States, National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, Federation of Egyptian Industries and Tahya Misr Presidential Fund.

It also attracted parliamentarians, as well as representatives of employers’ and workers’ unions, embassies, NGOs, development agencies and research centres, musicians, media practitioners and children.

The maestro of hope and his choir of dreamers

The event was concluded by a unique performance of “Egypt Children Choir” led by the international Maestro Selim Sahab, who revealed that after his success in helping these kids break the deadlock of child labour, he’s aiming at establishing the first ever “Arab Children Choir” and further carry the positive message about eradicating child labour.

Being a renowned Maestro, the Lebanese- Egyptian Saleem Sahhab instead of leading any choirs and taught any university classes, he decided to go to the streets. His eureka changed his life and the lives of many, and gave birth of the Choir of the children of Egypt.

Established three years ago, this Choir gathers more than 100 Egyptian children, boys and girls, aged from 5 to 17. They all share the same social stigma of being child labourers living on the streets of Egypt, but also share the same dream of singing, the willingness to learn and the determination to succeed.

To the Maestro, this was a moral duty and he was confident that once his idea sees the light, people will jump in to help: “people usually are good hearted but sometimes they fail to understand a conceptual idea."

Maestro Sahab identifies the ultimate objective of the choir to “increase children’s sense of belonging to the society, to the country and to make them dream of a bright rosy future through love and music.”

For many weeks, assisted with his wife and dream partner Amal, they held auditions in more than 50 centers hosting working street children; they listened to thousands of children and heard their heart breaking stories. He remained vigilant to choose the right people, and instead of a small symbolic choir of 20 children, he ended up with 100!

On August 5th 2015, the Choir of the children of Egypt had a quite remarkable presence in a very historic moment: they were honored to be the main performers at the opening of the New Suez Canal, in front of the Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi and dignitaries from all over the world.

And, as the International Labour Organization in Cairo was looking for an Egyptian success story, the Choir of the Children of Egypt was there; they chanted in Arabic, English, Latin and Italian and and enchanted everyone.

During the World Day Against Child Labour’s event on June 4th, Saleem Sahhab announced that he is going regional, and that his Egyptian choir will not only be performing in Arab countries, but he will be establishing the first ever choir of Arab Children, combining street children and refugees from the region.

“It will not be long before this new dream choir will be performing at ILO HQ in Geneva, if not in June 2018, they will definitely do it in 2019”, Sahab desiderated.

As for “dad” Saleem and “mum” Amal, while they do their regular accounting tasks, to distribute the earnings of their events to the individual accounts of their “kids”, they wish they can recruit more kids, and give them more opportunities and more hope in the future.
They are confident that their seeds are bearing fruits, and that the maestro of hope will have new tasks soon, and that more children are waiting and dreaming.

For more detailed information, please contact: ILO Cairo Office Communication Assistant, Asmaa Rezk | +201099760450 |