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Mona Mowafi, a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and lecturer in the fall series at the Center For Middle Eastern Studies, said she believes that the energy generated during the revolt in Egypt that began last spring can be harnessed to support a “ground up” revitalization of the nation.
As an Egyptian-American with an extensive background in Public Health, Mowafi said she thought the first 18 days of the revolution showed a palpable renewal of civic engagement. Most notably, Mowafi said, neighborhoods organized local watch groups to defend against the chaos in the streets.
Despite the continuation and recent violence of military rule, Mowafi, who blogged about the revolt for The Huffington Post, is confident that the military has played out its hand.
Mowafi said she believes that Egyptians are still willing to take to the streets. She added that the goals of the continuing revolution, which grew out of the workers’ movement, will outlast political distraction. The goals of the revolt extend beyond politics, she said.
Mowafi, drawing on her recent trips to Cairo, said a beneficial change to the city’s social fabric would be implementing a neighborhood jobs program. She said that this would require socio-economic mapping and tracking of local neighborhoods. Once needs are assessed, focus groups and neighborhood-specific tutorials could build a sense of community while also working to train and ultimately employ the jobless.
Egypt’s youth unemployment rate is currently at 25 percent, according to Mowafi.
Mowafi said she recognizes that her plan for a national participatory jobs program will likely require initial contribution from foreign aid, such as Americorps. Ultimately, however, she believes this role can be filled by the government and private sector. Mowafi said she is optimistic that a community-building approach would contribute to the long-term well-being and democratic aspirations of the country.
She added that public health concerns must be tracked locally, as they vary extensively among neighborhoods.
Egyptian female obesity ranks highest in the Middle East, and such an endemic affects local economic output and inter-generational behaviors, according to Mowafi.
Nearly 10 months after the January revolt, even while military rule delays elections, Mowafi said she has faith in the Egyptian people.
An “all-important reset button” was switched on, she said, rejuvenating what Mowafi characterized as a tradition of neighborliness in the country.
Mowafi said that the “Egyptian psyche has changed indelibly.” She noted that Egyptians now refer to the nation as “our country.”
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