In Sweden as in many parts of the northern hemisphere the month of May is a month of bloom and ripe- the month of plenty. The amount of activities at the Swedish Institute in Alexandria during May was no exception.
The month started with the participation of Director Holst-Alani at a seminar on the launch by Arab Women and the League of Arab States of the “Regional Strategy for the Protection of Arab Women: Peace and Security”. It was wonderful to see women and men from the whole region gathered to discuss the need for protection of women and girl children in conflicts such as the one in Syria but also to talk about the diversity of the region and to discussions strengthening women’s participation in politics whether through quota systems or by other means.
Moving from this “high level” event one day to one of our projects in Mounufiya governorate north of Cairo the next day truly gave some perspective on things as the Mounufiya project fittingly concerned women’s participation in politics, but on a local level. The seminar and training was attended by politically active young women from three different governorates. Enthusiastic and actively women bombarded the lecturers with questions in order to get as much as possible out of the knowledgeable speakers. Many of these events, however useful the trainings, they are also a way for people to connect with likeminded- but also to meet and learn from those who have other experiences and views on life. This became clear when Alexandria Local Media Forum was conducted in Alexandria the days after. The Institute gathered a large number of local media persons for a three day training on how to improve local media in Egypt. The young people that attended were to say the least, excited about the new acquaintances and the projects and ideas they had gathered from each other during the days and couldn’t wait to get back home and get started. At the institute, there is no lack of project proposals filling our inboxes and I suspect one or two more from local media persons will be submitted soon.
To sum up the month of plenty, emotions are not scarce in Egypt. Some Egyptians argue that Egypt and its people are run by emotions; others say Egyptians are not more emotional than others they just show their emotions more openly and that “emotions make them happy”. The selection of thoughts are from a dialogue between writers, students, journalists and a group of anthropologists who gathered for a workshop on Affective Politics in Transitional North Africa organized by the Swedish Institute Alexandria and the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala. The two day workshop looked into the influence that affect can have on politics. Themes of affect ranged from football, rejection, love, cinema, food and gender. The dialogue that ended the workshop showed the diversity of at least the Egyptian view on the influence that affect has, or should have on politics.
As we now move in to the month of June the Swedish Institute in Alexandria is among other things preparing a debate during the Almedalen week on the island of Gotland in Sweden in June/July on the topic the Role of Religion in building a Democracy; Recording another episode of the ONTV debate “Vocies from Egypt” with UN Women, which this time will be recorded in our beautiful building on the corniche in Alexandria. We are in addition launching a book ”Religion and the State in the Arab World” and not the least, celebrating the Swedish national day on the 6th of June!
Acting Deputy Director