CAIRO: Approximately 120 alumni of a Democracy Schools Program at the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI) assembled Saturday in a forum to discuss their achievements and experience.
The one-day event was held at Aida Conference Hall in Cairo Mariott Hotel in Zamalek.
The participants enrolled in the schools program which aims to teach how to become active players in their local communities and political life in general over a 6-month period.
The program is administered in Egypt and funded and managed by DEDI, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD,) the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD,) and Action Aid Denmark (DS AA).
In his word during the forum, Chairman of Board of Directors of the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute Ambassador Raouf Saad said the program is “unique” and “important” since it teaches how democracy becomes a “lifestyle.”
Saad, who is a former Assistant Foreign Minister, said that he has worked with the institute since 2008, and that he considers the program one of its remarkable achievements.
The ambassadors of Netherlands and Denmark in Cairo were also present at Saturday meeting.
Pernille Dahler Kardel, the Danish Ambassador in Cairo, said that she was “very happy with the gathering and with the presence of dedicated people who seek to know more about democracy.”
Gerard Steeghs, the Dutch Ambassador in Cairo, said that democracy “is a very difficult kind of system to work for everybody,” and that it needs skills.
“What the schools’ [program] does is teach these skills and try to create this experience so that the development process of the Egyptian democracy can be speed more,” Steeghs told The Cairo Post on the margins of the forum.
He also expressed his hope that the program benefit “every citizen in Egypt,” since it does not exclude or discriminate between the participants, according to him.
Director of DEDI, Hans Christian told The Cairo Post that the reason for the presence of the three ambassadors of Egypt, Denmark and Netherlands at the meeting is “to show international cooperation and make it clear to the students that they are in a much bigger system.”
The alumni meeting is important as participants gather again after graduating, so that they keep in touch and not forget about what they were taught, according to Hans.
The program is implemented in three governorates: Cairo, Menoufia and Fayoum, with the coordination of three Egyptian organizations; the Cairo Center for Human Development (CCHD), and the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA), and Decision Support Center (DSC.)
Salwa Sabet, Director of CCHD, told The Cairo Post that the program was first implemented in Indonesia, and they are now imitating the experience.
“So far, the turnout of participants to enroll in the program in Menoufia was very high,” she added. “Most of the graduates have started their own initiatives and projects.”
How the program benefited you?
Nourhan Khamis, 27, was one of the graduates of the program’s first class in 2012-2013. “We were taught in various fields, including human rights, governing system, parliament and others,” Khamis told The Cairo Post Saturday. She added the classes brought together dozens of participants from different backgrounds and political affiliations.
Mohamed Hamed, 24, a law school graduate attended the second class that graduated in 2014. “Before I enroll in the program, I was stubborn and clinging to my revolutionary spirit, and never accepted to enter a debate with other people with Islamist affiliations or those whom we call old regime remnants,” said Hamed. “It took me some time to understand the importance of accepting different opinions and people in my society; I was taught to do so in the program through various interesting activities.”
Rehab Abou Bakr, 39, said that after finishing the program, she is now seeking to have her own organization specialized in supporting refugees, and will run in the elections of localities. “I am now aware of the responsibilities of officials in the state, and can tell when they are delinquent or violating the law,” Abou Bakr added.
The last session of the forum was allocated for the graduates to share their experiences, contributions and get to know each other. Activities were also held in which the attendees were divided into groups and start a dialogue on the discussions held in the morning sessions.
The program has announced it is launching a website as an e-learning aspect of the initiative in order to make the curricula available online for learners and create an interactive environment between the programs’ graduates and everyone.