Together for family life and development
Together for Family Development (TFD) is a network of civil society organizations working in various areas of development which aims to improve quality of life of marginalized families by alleviating poverty via public awareness-raising and policy advocacy, research and studies, and institutional capacity building. TFD works via democratic decision-making, transparency and accountability.
TFD is a national network of 15 churches and non-governmental organizations. As individual organizations they address spiritual, social and economic aspects of life in local communities ranging from Minia in the south of Egypt to Alexandria in the north. Through their programs they empower disabled individuals to claim their rights and integrate into society; support female household heads to improve the economic, educational and health levels of their families; encourage children — especially girls — to obtain a formal education; remove child laborers from hazardous occupations; teach poor farmers to “clean” their produce and access more profitable markets; and replace slum housing with healthful homes. All of the organizations — churches and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) alike — are involved in improving the health and economic situation of their constituents.
TFD was formed in 2003. The network is governed by a board of directors elected by the General Assembly and composed of one representative from each member organization. Subcommittees — training and capacity building, strategic program, financial, membership, and international relations — are responsible for the ongoing work of the network.
Because of difficulties in formally registering a network composed of churches and NGOs, TFD is, at this point, an informal network. One of its member organizations serves as umbrella for the network; this provides it with the legal status it needs in order to function in Egypt’s restrictive environment.
TFD is currently involved in a major capacity building process in public policy advocacy. Public policy advocacy is not well known in Egypt; the methodologies used are new ways of working for the network member organizations; implementing them in the Egyptian environment is challenging. As a result the network is determined to build a solid foundation. Once it has done so, TFD will provide an important new model for Egyptian civil society and expects to make significant contributions to improved quality of life in Egypt. The network will use its new public policy advocacy skills to address multiple issues at the root of poverty and hunger. Gender inequity, lack of access to credit and exploitation of small farmers are examples.
Focus on disabled
While it hones its advocacy skills, TFD has chosen to advocate to improve the situation of disabled individuals — one of the most marginalized groups in Egypt. All of the Egyptian institutions serving disabled individuals, from the best to the worst, are able to serve only two percent of those who need assistance. Factors contributing to lack of services include lack of trained professionals, lack of cooperation between the sectors that work in this field and failure to enforce existing laws for the disabled.
The social stigma attached to disability compounds the problem. The disabled often remain shut in their homes, uneducated and unproductive, unable to contribute to family income and, in many instances, preventing other family members from earning a livelihood. In impoverished rural villages and urban squatter communities, residents’ low education and economic standards reinforce the severity of the problem.
Key causes of disability for children remain the vicious circle of chronic malnutrition and infectious diseases and a medical system ill-equipped to cope with delivery accidents, childhood mishaps or the early detection of congenital problems. The few early detection and intervention services which do exist are provided at relatively high costs or offer such low quality service that they do not satisfy the needs of children and families.
The Egyptian government has made an effort to overcome crucial shortages that limit quality of life for the disabled. While positive results have been achieved in some areas, the national budget for services for the disabled is entirely inadequate for the task.