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Friday morning and Lake Qarun is absorbed in a morning haze. I gaze over the water to the other side and see the silhouettes of the golden shore and an extending desert. A blue little fishing boat is bobbing to the rhythm of sleepy waves. A few couples are strolling along the shore enjoying a day off. I relish the scenery and think that people must have seen and admired the same view thousands of years ago. Suddenly an Ibis bird lands next to me and stretches its elegant and gracious neck. I feel fortunate to be in Fayoum and witness this beauty.

Soon I hear youthful voices and cheerful laughter. They have arrived, the participants in our workshop. The Swedish Institute Alexandria and the Arab Forum for Alternative Studies have brought a group of youth movements together under the heading; Citizens Spring: toward a constructive dialogue between the youth movements in Egypt.

The objective of bringing the youth movements together is threefold; first to offer them  a space where they can get to know each together,  share ideas and work together, secondly to offer them a chance to present their ideas through media channels and public events, and third to produce a contemporary study about the Egyptian youth  movements.

I personally couldn’t have had a better start at work, after being on parental leave for six months. The work of these movements instills hope for the future of Egypt. They do advocacy work for democracy and human rights in their immediate local community as well as on a national level. Minority rights, women’s rights, social justice, education and health are just a few examples of the areas they operate in. The methodology is often presence in the street, meeting people, talking to people, listening to people, and bringing the voices of the community to the decision-makers. One of the participants says that her movement has made small but important changes in one area by improving the safety of its citizens and lobbing with the officials for access to clean water. Another young man talks about his peace movement in Alexandria where he advocates citizens to solve disagreements in a peaceful way and through constructive dialogue. Many of them witnessed their friends die in the struggle. But they will never give up and they will never accept subjugation again.
I look forward to the next phase of the meeting here in Alexandria in November.

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The institute is engaged in lots of activities this autumn, many of them in the region but also in Sweden. The TV debates will continue and the next two debates will focus on education and youth, two areas of utter importance for the development in the country.

Fairhaven is a school for handicapped in Alexandria and they are coming to the institute the 6th of November to talk about the importance of developing good teaching pedagogy for children with special needs, and the model that they successfully use in Fairhaven. The invitees will be teachers and personnel representing schools working with children with special needs.

The institute will participate in the seminar arranged by the Finnish embassy on Arab Nordic history 9+10 November in Cairo.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, CIHRS will be represented at the Swedish Human Rights days in Stockholm from the 14-16 November. They will talk about the current situation in Egypt regarding human rights.

Further our exchange program with researchers in the MENA region and Sweden are meeting in Lund, Sweden 26-28 November for the last phase of the program on Changing Notions of Citizenship, Past, Present and Future.

The institute in cooperation with Kvinna till Kvinna and IDEA will pursue the regional workshop with Women in Politics in Amman 28-30 November. Regional networking with women in decision-making continues to be crucial. A new and important development in the workshop is introducing younger women in the process and create a kind of mentor approach.

The last day of November we will discuss the Future of Political Islam in the Arab World in Beirut. Our partner is the Center for Arab Unity Studies.

December is a busy month, first Director Birgitta Holst-Alani is Co-Chair of the OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum and will in this capacity be chairing  a discussion on Nurturing Entrepreneurship: Improving Women’s Access to Services and Finance in Rabat the 2-3 December. Youth in Politics will take place in Sweden between 9-13 December where 20 young Egyptians will meet 20 young Swedes during a week and build capacities regarding political participation. The second phase will take place next year in Alexandria. Our partners in this program are The Swedish Institute and the National Council for Youth Organizations in Sweden.

The Egyptian Philosophical Society has their annual meeting in our institute. They bring together philosophers from all around the Middle East and North Africa. This year’s topic will be Feminism.

The 13th of December we will of course have the traditional Lucia reception at the institute.

The final activity of the year will take place in Tunisia in cooperation with the Center for Arab Unity Studies under the title The Role of Cinema in Arab Renaissance.

The work with the institute’s new web page continues and hopefully be the end of the year we will introduce our new platform.  More information about our activities can be found on www.swedalex.org  and our Facebook page.

 I wish you all a good autumn!

 

Cecilia Sternemo

Deputy Director

Swedish Institute Alexandria

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