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Women’s Poverty in Egypt

Maye Aly

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Appoquinimink High School








Women’s Poverty in Egypt

Most people do not understand that women are overlooked when it comes to poverty. Women make up half of the world’s population and represent 70% of the world’s poor (Global Citizen, 2013, para. 1). Poverty holds a powerful influence on those who are affected, as they are exposed to negative conditions such as low incomes, low levels of health, and little access to clean water and sanitation. Specifically, many women in Egypt deal with this lack of opportunities to meet their needs, to better their standard of living and increase independence. In Egypt, women are more likely than men to live in poverty and have less access to work, assets, and formal credit. Fortunately, several non-profitable organizations continue to strive diligently towards reducing poverty. Poverty is an issue for women in Egypt because they experience hunger and malnutrition, infectious diseases, and lack of health services and resources, and non-profitable organizations must help to improve their lives and circumstances.

One of the biggest causes of poverty for Egyptian women is unemployment, especially since inequalities are often faced in the workforce. A study conducted by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics revealed that the participation of men is three times higher than that of women (Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics CAPMAS, 2015, para. 1). Gender discrimination limits their ability to work and puts them at a disadvantage when both contributing to and benefiting from the economy. According to a report by CAPMAS, women’s unemployment in Egypt reached 24% in 2013, compared to 9.8% for men (CAPMAS, 2015, para. 3). In addition, there is a gender wage gap attributed to a lack of adequate measures to achieve equal working opportunities such as helping women enter high-wage occupations and improving workplace policies regarding childcare and family leave. The low pay and lack of social protection make women in Egypt vulnerable to the effects of poverty.

Furthermore, Egyptian women living in poverty face different circumstances that prevent them from achieving their basic needs. For example, many of them do not have enough food and often experience hunger and malnutrition. The United Nations World Food Program reports that “women in Egypt who cannot afford to eat more than once a day suffer severe hunger pangs and sometimes go without any food to be able to feed their children” (United Nations World Food Program WFP, 2015, para. 3). The effects of low food intake include weakness, dizziness, irritability, nausea, and in severe cases, may result in death. These women undergo sustained periods of time without being able to eat necessary food to meet their nutritional needs. To fill their stomachs, they rely on low-nutrition, calorie-dense foods such as lentils, rice, and beans. Without essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, Egyptian women living in poverty suffer from anemia, muscle wasting, and breathing difficulties, with 34.50% of them that deal with anemia as of 2012 (CAPMAS, 2014, para.5).

In addition, prolonged lack of food and nutrition causes increased susceptibility to disease and reduced ability for the body to self-heal (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, n.d, para. 1). In Egypt, women living in poverty face health challenges including infectious diseases such as hepatitis, schistosomiasis, and typhoid fever. These diseases are acquired through eating or drinking contaminated food or water since women living in rural areas have poor access to clean water and sanitation. Hepatitis is a viral disease that interferes with the functioning of the liver. As stated by the CDC, “the prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection in Egypt is the highest in the world” (CDC, n.d, para. 1). Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic flatworm that penetrates the skin, and the effects include intestinal diseases and bladder cancer. Lastly, typhoid fever is a life-threatening bacterial disease that affects the bloodstream and intestinal tract.

When it comes to healthcare, Egypt’s poor women are 20% less likely to receive medical care than wealthy women (USAID, 2017, para. 2). These women lack health services and medical resources that are necessary to promote their health and reduce premature death. This situation is especially bad in rural areas since “20% of hospitals in the rural south have no doctors and only 40% of necessary medicines are available in government hospitals and clinics” (Devi, 2013, para. 11). Fewer medical practitioners mean less health care and longer response times in cases of emergencies. Health facilities that are accessible to Egyptian women living in poverty are often unsanitary and in bad condition. Government-run hospitals are contaminated with poisoned water, bloody bandages on the floor, and dirty rooms (Devi, 2013, para. 13), exposing patients to unsafe and low-quality services. Doctors who do not have enough medical supplies are unable to follow hygiene protocols, and sometimes reuse supplies that should be disposed of, further spreading diseases.

Although poverty is an issue for women in Egypt, it is also a global issue where millions of people lack basic needs to survive. Non-profitable organizations, along with citizens, need to raise awareness to help reduce worldwide poverty, to ensure a more secure and beneficial lifestyle for everyone in need. Fortunately, every year, thousands of citizens and organizations gather to fight poverty by collecting donations, signing petitions, spreading information, and traveling to areas with people in need. As awareness rises, the motivation and willingness to assist the less fortunate become greater. An organization such as Global Citizen serves as “a social action platform for a global generation that wants to solve the world’s biggest challenges” (Global Citizen, n.d, para.1). Through Global Citizen, 13,442,593 actions have been taken on issues, 35 billion dollars in commitments have been made, and 1.3 billion lives are set to be affected (Global Citizen, n.d, para.1). These funds have helped provide impoverished people with clean water and sanitation, as well as vaccines and healthcare necessary for survival.






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