-“What Egypt needs the most today is awareness”, says a young woman representing a youth movement called “My hand on your shoulder”. “We need to reach out to the ordinary people in poorer areas to give them political awareness and tools to be active citizens” she continues.

Another young woman from Baheya Masr continues “We cannot take for granted that people know what is discussed in the country and media today. When we work with people in local areas and discuss the constitution for example, the discussion revolves around problems of garbage in the streets, lack of job opportunities and sexual harassments. People do not know what a constitution is.  We need to reach out to people so they know what is going on in their country and how it affects them”

For the past three days the youth movements from Egypt have been taking part in a workshop in Alexandria under the title “Citizenship Spring” together with the Arab Forum for Alternative Studies. The closing session of the workshop was a public event focusing on “Youth  movements after 25th  of January revolution in 2011”

The speakers at the closing session were representatives from The Nubian Youth Union Movement,  The Maspero Youth Union, “Baheya Ya Masr” movement, “Eedy Aala ketfak” initiative, “Ahiaa Belesm fakat” campaign, and the Popular  Revolutionary Committees,  each of them highlighting their experiences, obstacles  and future plans.

Many issues were discussed, such as minority problems including the Nubian issue and the displacement of the Nubian people. The challenges the Coptic community is facing have many similarities between the problems confronting the Nubians as minorities, however less known to the public.

Speakers also talked about the role of their movements in society, such as political awareness campaigns held by Revolutionary Committees, and their role to improve local services like health and education.

Eedy Aala ketfak “My hand on your shoulder” initiative and Ahiaa Belesm Fakat “Alive by name only” campaign are two youth groups operating in slums and poor areas.  The problems in these areas are often related to lack of education, dropping out of school too early and sexual harassment.  “Baheya Ya Masr” movement which started in 2012 has organized many events and demonstrations tackling sexual harassment and several other issues that concern women’s rights and participation, as well as awareness campaigns.

The participants expressed how important it had been to meet each other in the two workshops during the last month to explore common ground. Joint efforts are crucial and they conveyed hope to work together in several areas in the near future.

At present the youth movements and youth initiatives are thriving in Egypt. The work and efforts they are exerting is not uncomplicated, but very important and vital for the future of  Egypt. These movements need support, capacity and recognition. Here at SwedAlex we will continue to serve as a platform for youth from the Middle East- North Africa and Europe who work for the development of their society.

Cecilia Sternemo

Deputy Director

Swedish Institute Alexandria