As young teenage girls, Soumaia and Samaa used to head off to the local market each morning to bring back supplies of vegetables and help prepare their family grocery store for the arrival of customers. “We used to have to get up very early and the loads we carried were heavy. Some people used to bother us on the way to the market as it was still dark and the traffic was always a worry.” But Soumaia and Samaa and their father Khaled were clients of a microfinance programme run by EACID (the Egyptian Association for Community Initiatives and Development) and they were about to negotiate a new loan. In a conversation with the EACID loan officer they realized that if they were able to increase their loan size from USD 1,000 US to USD 1,400 they would have enough cash on hand to negotiate with the wholesaler for home delivery of vegetables. Since Khaled had a good credit history with EACID, and the business was doing well, the loan officer agreed to increase the loan size. Now Soumaia and Samaa unload the donkey cart that arrives outside their shop each morning. Their work has become much easier, they are both able to spend more time on schoolwork and plan to become computer operators.
EACID along with its Canadian partners PTE (Partners in Technology Exchange) and MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) have developed a series of intervention tools to improve working conditions within micro-enterprises that are part of EACID’s microfinance programme. This work has been supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and grew out of earlier CIDA support programmes that helped women and poor families in Upper Egypt start and sustain micro and small businesses. EACID had found that although it was able to successfully manage a loan fund, and its clients were expanding their businesses and improving family incomes, the quality of work within the businesses was not always safe or healthy. In addition, children often worked alongside adults as the family businesses grew and required additional labour. EACID was concerned about the social impact of its programmes and felt it needed to do more for its clients.