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Eygpt

Mokattam’s ‘garbage village’
In the centre of Cairo, at the foot of Mokattam, there lies the ‘garbage village’ of about 20,000 people. These people, referred to as zabbaleen, live off garbage activities. As a result, they are effectively excluded from the rest of society, which has meant that in the past most zabbaleen children had no access to formal education. Instead, from a very early age, they would accompany their parents in sorting waste in the home, or going on the collection routes around Cairo – since it’s estimated that the zabbaleen handle about a third of Cairo’s garbage.

Practical skills
Since 1984, the Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE) has been working with the zabbaleen in improving their living conditions and making a real business out of their recycling work. APE has been involved in implementing projects which mix literacy, numeracy and health with practical skills and programmes such as rag and paper recycling units, an organic compost plant, neighbourhood upgrading schemes but mention but a few. This not only gives practical skills to the people, but equally importantly, a sense of dignity in their own worth.

‘Learning and earning’
An early project was the organic composting plant, which was then able to fund the rug weaving and patchwork centre.

This targeted women who missed out upon their education, as they had been involved in the garbage route as children.

They were recruited into a ‘learning and earning’ school, which incorporated all the elements of school learning within a recycling project turning clean rags into marketable products such as rugs.

The women build upon existing skills, whilst also developing new ones including literacy. Once they have graduated, the women continue to produce items in their homes.

Spreading the knowledge
The women are able to use their education and skills within the wider community upon graduation, and as the products generate income, this too can then be re-invested into the community.

Today, the textile centre teaches more than 250 women. It has also had a positive impact upon the health and nutrition of families as the women apply their new knowledge.

It has also had a wider impact in that APE is now using the experience and knowledge gained to develop similar schemes in Tora and Sinai, thereby helping others to improve their lives and communities.

 
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Project originally funded by EU and DfID with support from Tower Hamlets LEA