An article I wrote on urban gardening in Egypt has been published by UNDP in a report on Green Economy in Action.

The article is included demonstrating examples of “agriculture demonstrating practical, concrete, and on the ground green economy country experience”, with the aspiration that this will “provide information and knowledge for policy and decision makers and practitioners on the positive implications of greening some priority sectors, including job creation, resource efficiency, and generally contribution to sustainable development”.

I think this is a testament to the wonderful projects that the featured organisations are working on in Cairo. The growth of urban gardening is an interesting phenomenon. It was inspiring to see what can be created on the rooftops of a busy city such as Cairo and the positive effects that these gardens can have for food security, the environment and communities.

The link to the report can be found here (see pages 23-24 for the article).

For more information about the featured projects see: Schaduf; Thousand Gardens in Africa; Permaculture Egypt and Nawaya.

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“The struggle for national unity in Egypt goes far beyond religion, far beyond the Christian’s concerns and far beyond minority rights claims. Despite repeated arguments presenting the country as one majority group, the revolution and the democratic discussions that have followed have highlighted the diverse voices of Egypt. Indeed, within the Egyptian population there are many ethnic minorities: Berber; Bedouin; Beja; Nubian and Dom. There are also many other smaller religious groups, including: Baha’i; Shia Muslims; Jews and various branches of Christianity. In some cases certain groups suffer political exclusion without being numerically minorities, such as young people and women. A monotone picture of national unity, language and culture fails to portray the diverse voices within Egyptian society.

The Copts have the particular challenge of preserving their faith while simultaneously integrating into a new nation whose president encourages the agenda of another faith. In such circumstances, agreement is by no means simple. Yet a vision of Egypt as a multi-layered country, with many groups and many perspectives may help to ease the tension. Indeed, in a post-revolutionary Egypt with a bubbling civil society and youth movements, the Copts have many allies in challenging the new political power. Current anti-Morsi protests attest to this fact.”

Read the full-article at: The Arab Review.

“Egypt: ‘Constitutional amendments amount to coup’

Tensions have soared in Egypt after the military dealt a number of blows to the democratic process in the form of court decisions and constitutional amendments. In a column on theallAfrica.com site, political analyst Catriona Knapman notes that the latest and most blatant of these is the Constitutional Declaration, issued on 17 June, which grants the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) legislative powers as well as greater control over the constitution-drafting process. ‘Lawyers and activists were left to grapple with the legality and implications of what many now describe as a coup d’état. The military made its first move on 13 June by issuing Decree No. 4991, which grants the military power to arrest civilians for an extensive list of crimes, including acts disrupting traffic and public protest. A coalition of human rights groups and activists described it as ‘a legal shield for army intervention in the daily life of Egyptians’.

The second move came on 14 June , two days before the final round of the presidential elections, as the Supreme Constitutional Court announced its verdict on two major decisions. The first concerned the Political Isolation Law whose goal is to deny political rights to persons associated with Mubarak’s former regime. The court declared the law unconstitutional, allowing Ahmed Shafiq, who was Hosni Mubarak’s interim Prime Minister in 2011, to run in the final round of the elections. As a candidate supported by SCAF, the political ramifications of the decision were inescapable.’ Knapman says the second decision claimed the parliamentary elections for the Lower House last year had been unconstitutional as party members had been allowed to contest the one third of seats reserved for independent candidates. ‘This thus called for parliament to be dissolved until fresh elections. Debate is still ongoing on whether or not there is now a functioning parliament. The Constitutional Court judgment declared that one third of parliamentarians were illegal, but doubt remains as to whether this requires the complete or partial dissolution of Parliament,’ she added.

 

“The formation of Egypt’s constituent assembly can be seen as an illustration of the many groups vying for representation within Egypt’s new democracy. Yet, the struggle to include women representatives within the assembly is demonstrative of the traditional power struggles which continue to be played out in the country.
Women’s groups are continuing to fight another battle in a long war, but it is apparent that they are just one party that has found itself excluded, and their fight is one in which many others are now joining. Yet, care must be taken so that public debate on women’s issues is not lost, if SCAF attempts to gain a tighter hold on the Constitution-drafting process.”
For full article see ACUS.

“This week’s events suggest that Egypt’s new democracy has not quite shaken off its old regime habits. Louisa Lovelock at Chatham House notes that “each case is ambiguous, but it is not the individual decisions, but the body of decisions which points towards an ideological trend”. This trend suggests a clear shape of military power, which the procedures of court rulings and Constitutional Declarations only thinly veil.”

For the full article see Think Africa Press.

Republished by Amandla NewsallAfrica and European Partnership for Democracy.

“After the official results were announced on May 28, revolutionary groups protested in Tahrir Square, contesting the results and particularly calling into question the success Shafik, who was nominated prime minister by Mubarak’s during the 2011 revolution. It is still early days for democracy in Egypt and for the grassroots revolutionary movements – credited as the catalysts for the revolution – just the start of a process to convert street activism into the political leverage needed to lay the foundations for a democratic culture.”

Read my full article on The Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East’s Egypt Source Blog.

A break from Egyptian elections to visit the Monastery of St Bishoy (Pishoy), where the late Coptic Pope Shenouda was buried in March 2012. Egyptian Christians were arriving in coach loads to see the body.

This place has not escaped attack in the past. Following the revolution last year, the army attacked this monastery, causing injuries to some and arresting others. Post-revolution Egypt is an uncertain place for Copts, who make up around 5 to 10% of the population. Their religious freedoms and rights are being side-lined, by an Islamic majority in Parliament and the possibility of an incoming Muslim Brotherhood President.

Yet, this reminder of discrimination is not present during out visit. The atmosphere is one of a family day out with children running everywhere and queues forming to see where the coffin lies. These photos show something of the monastery where visitors were relaxed, friendly and welcoming.

A full article and photo essay was developed from this post for The Arab Review.

Resting place of Pope Shenouda

Ceiling decorations

A father carries his child from the dark burial room out to the main church.

A man pauses beside signs directing visitors around the Monastery.

A friendly family approach us to speak and take photos.

Two beautiful little girls ask to be friends.

A boy watches us from afar.

Crosses on towers and gates.

Egypt: The Fight for the Right to Shout

Freedom of expression and assembly are becoming much debated rights in Egypt. With the Presidential elections looming, the issue is even more critical. The military violence against protesters such as that seen in Abbaseya at the beginning of May highlights the different actors involved in this discussion. Rights groups claim that it is a constant struggle to keep freedom of expression and assembly alive in Egypt, highlighting the multi-institutional and multi-armed attack on these rights from courts, parliament and military alike.

As Noor Ayman Nour, No Military Trials states: “from January 2011, we were under the impression that things would forever be different. But by February of the same year freedom of assembly was already being attacked and protests dispersed…It is getting much worse.”

Follow the above link to Think Africa Press for my full article discussing the situation of freedom of expression and assembly in Egypt.

It is the eve of the Presidential elections in Egypt. In some ways everything seems so quiet. There is not the flurry of campaigning which I expected. Indeed, campaigning is not very present across  Cairo. It seems to be concentrated in specific areas of the city. Many of the main candidates seem to also be focusing on towns and rural areas outside of the city, where they think there campaign will more easily be able to influence voters and have a bigger impact.

The campaigns make themselves felt in bursts throughout Cairo, a flyer thrust into hands outside of metro stations, a heated debate on a midnight metro between strangers, a group of youths tearing down posters in downtown, passing by coffee shops shouting: “No to Shafik!”

This seems to be a feature of the campaigns. They focus on ‘No’ to certain candidates rather than rally support around one. The 6th April Movement, made a concentrated effort to support boycotting candidates linked to the previous regime. (See Egypt Independent).

This brand new President will have a strong influence over Egypt’s future. Not just in the traditional way, will his political preferences determine national programme and law-making. In Egypt’s current context any President elected will incite reaction from civil society. His religious sway will decide relations with a predominately Islamist Parliament; his political sway will provoke the reactions of determined and strong groups of activists, and his support of the previous regime will assure (or not) willingness of the army to withdraw from power.

With this in mind, it seems that campaigning is not the place where activists and Egyptians are really fighting for their future. It seems this new democracy will be asserted in post-election activism, not pre-election campaigning. For now, Egypt is waiting.

Back in 2009 I produced a research paper and policy analysis on gender equality while working for the Luxembourg Government in Northern Nicaragua. Having recently set-up this blog, I would like to use this space to share the results of this research.

The project I was working with focused on encouraging socioeconomic development through tourism, using community and participatory processes. These processes involved setting up committees in both departments and municipals across Northern Nicaragua. These committees were responsible for building development plans for their region, as such setting the aims, aspirations and means for this development. The committees were also responsible for administration of some aspects of the project’s funds, such as spending on departmental infrastructure and selection of beneficiaries for a micro-credit scheme.

The report I produced analysed the project data, looking both at its employees and committee members, to assess the extent to which gender equality was part of this development process. The full report is available (in Spanish) at the end of this post. However, I would like to point out here, a few interesting highlights.

1. Although the participants in the project’s committees were largely made up of equal numbers of men and women,  it became apparent that men were more likely to take on leadership roles within these committees and in most cases the Presidents of the committees were men.

2. Although men and women participated equally in the training provided by the project, men dominated the courses on business management, while women were the main recipients in the courses on cooking. The demonstrated a gendered approach, based on traditional roles in Nicaragua.

3. Despite a policy which encouraged the hiring of women, two-thirds of consultants contracted by the project were men.

4. Women involved in the project pointed out a higher sense of self-esteem from being involved in the project, which translated into their home life.

5. Women also pointed out that it was harder for women to participate due to issues such as childcare, the responsibility for which primarily fell on them.

The recommendations made by this study, included:

1. Better monitoring of gender issues within project operations;

2. Provision of daycare and other facilities to allow women with children to more easily participate;

3. Taking an approach which attempts to counter gender stereotypes in the roles that women assume within the project.

Full study available to download, in Spanish, shortly.

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