By: Leila Khalil
Jawad Nabulsi, founder and director of the Nebny Foundation, discussed the role of Egyptian youth after the revolution on Sunday, March 25, at Mary Cross Hall in a lecture titled “Translating Youth.”
Nabulsi is a well-known advocate of civic engagement whose work can be seen all over Egypt, from Manshiet Nasser to the ‘Now Festival.’
The event was hosted by the Lazord Academy of the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, and marks the launch of the “I’m Engaged” campaign, which aims to raise awareness about civic engagement and how the Egyptian youth can participate in civil society.
Around 60 people attended the lecture, which was in Arabic. Several of the audience members were from outside the AUC community.
Safeya Zeitoun, an AUC freshman and member of the Lazord Academy, began the event by explaining the concept behind the “I’m Engaged” campaign before shortly introducing Nabulsi.
According to Zeitoun, the campaign’s goal is to inform today’s youth on civic engagement and get them to acknowledge “that all the problems we see around us are at least partly our own and we need to do something to solve them,” she explained.
Nabulsi then took the stage and explained Egypt’s post-revolutionary problems and the importance of civil engagement. The first point he addressed was the problem of communication between the citizenry and Egyptian officials. Given the current state, getting help and support from officials is difficult, especially for lower class citizens he argued.
Nabulsi explained that he once tried contacting road officials about a problem on a major highway that was causing accidents and blocking traffic — to no avail. “If a person such as me (being a public figure) cannot talk to the authorities to complain on a problem, then what are the regular citizens supposed to do?”
Nabulsi’s lecture centered on the three steps which he believes are key elements to helping Egypt grow in the right direction. The first step is to find a mechanism for making decisions.
“Inside every person is a dictator,” says Nabulsi, “everyone wants their way and ideas.”
Yet people need to come together and be able to make decisions that will benefit the whole of Egypt.
Making those decisions, however, cannot happen without freedom — freedom of speech, free presses, media, and most important, the freedom to change. If people have the freedom to access new knowledge and voice their opinions, then they can change their mindsets to more positive ways of thinking.
Nabulsi explained that currently people are forced into the lifestyle and mentality they are in and have no means of changing it.
A person’s mindset is based on “input” and “output” he said, explaining that the living environment and the method by which Egyptians were raised have outsized effects in shaping their lives. If the inputs can be changed from negative to positive, then the output will change for the better.
Nabulsi pressed on the point that if Egypt is to have a democracy in which the youth can vote and make changes, then they must be educated to be able to make proper decisions.
The next three or four years are a “golden opportunity” for Egypt he argued, but only if the youth are taught to think and act in an educated way.
Nabulsi then called for those who see a problem and a plausible solution to come forward and engage in civil society. He echoed a sentiment by Zeitoun that “we believe that youth should play a determining role by contributing with their passion, their creativity and their vision.”