Monday, October 17, 2011

Joining Hands with Egypt - Day 2

The Des Moines Presbytery's Hunger Action Enabler and Social Ministries Task Force Moderator Nancy Lister-Settle writes of her trip to Egypt, October 11-18, 2011.
Back in Cairo, we met with one of the first organizations to enlist in the Joining Hands-Egypt network: Association for Protection of the Environment (APE). This group works in Moqattam with the community of garbage collectors, the Zabaleen. APE has been offering training to the women of the community in paper-making, rug weaving and patchwork along with literacy classes and children's programs. Since March of this year they have been holding civic education workshops as part of the Together for Family Development (TFD) campaign. We met with the APE project leadership.
The APE staff told us about their approach to enabling citizens. They worked with a television production company to create a role play illustrating the important elements of active citizenship and presented it in four locations and at the big Coptic Orthodox Church in Moqattam. They selected 10 women from the community to take the workshop to their own neighborhoods--training trainers. The role play was recorded and now can be shared with other organizations.

The staff told us they feel that the people of Moqattam now know the language of politics, they can think for themselves about candidates and issues, and they have a new sense of responsibility to take part in the upcoming elections.

I asked if the common people had access to candidates so that they could express their concerns and raise the issues that are important to them. The women told me that the candidates would not meet with the voters, but instead would make appointments with community leaders (i.e., the priest at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Moqattam). After thinking a minute, one of the ladies from the community commented that they needed to make sure that the priest knew what the critical issues for the Zabaleen actually were!
There is concern, of course, that intimidation and violence will erupt at election time--especially in the slums of Cairo--which would keep people from going to vote. Husbands would keep their wives at home rather than expose them to danger, so the women would not be able to participate.
The final request from the staff of APE and the women who have taken part in the civic education program: "Pray for us and all of Egypt during these uncertain times."

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