The Egyptian Revolution: An Entrepreneurial Perspective

Posted by on February 22, 2011 in Africa, Entrepreneurship, Middle East

The Egyptian Revolution is known for many things; the large number of protesters; largely being youth led; inclusive to all social, religious and age groups; and its people’s persistence (because they stayed until their demands were met… be that through day, night or rain).

It was also practical, creative, innovative and most of all, entrepreneurial.

A timeline of the Egyptian Revolution, courtesy of Ashoka Fellow Maha Helali:

Tuesday, 1/25: Protests Begin, ‘Day Of Rage’

Wednesday, 1/26: Second Day Of Protests

Thursday, 1/27: Egypt Shuts Down The Internet

Friday, 1/28: Mubarak Speaks, Says He’ll Form A New Government

Saturday, 1/29: Anonymous Internet Users Help Egypt Communicate

Sunday, 1/30: Hillary Clinton: Egypt Must Have Transition To Democracy

Monday, 1/31: Egypt’s New Government Is Announced, Sworn In

Tuesday, 2/1: President Mubarak Says He Won’t Run For Re-Election

Wednesday, 2/2: Internet Service Returns In Egypt

Thursday, 2/3: Foreign Journalists Rounded Up

Friday, 2/4: “Day of Departure” Protests Held Across Egypt

Saturday, 2/5: Members Of  Ruling Party Leadership Resign

Sunday, 2/6: Government Agrees On Concessions

Monday, 2/7: Google Executive Released In Egypt

Tuesday, 2/8: Freed Activist Energizes Protests

Wednesday, 2/9: Widespread Labor Strikes Throughout Egypt

Thursday, 2/10: Despite Rumors, Mubarak Refuses To Step Down

Friday, 2/11: Mubarak Resigns As President, Leaves Cairo

Ashoka Arab World has met recently with some of its Egyptian Fellows, drawing on their experiences during the protests and understanding their visions for Egypt’s future…

The beginning was a Google Maps print out of El Tahrir Square — where it all started — provided by Ashoka  Fellow Hany El Miniawy. El Miniawy, elected in 2004, aims to transfer his knowledge and experience of building materials and techniques to youth living in impoverished areas through the construction of low-cost, environmentally friendly housing for low-income areas in Egypt.

His views of social entrepreneurship are always through the art of architecture, and he is eager to build on the momentum generated by this revolution.

Tamer Bahaa, following the killing of three deaf and mute protestors by armed forces because they wouldn’t adhere to warnings shouts, worked on spreading awareness among the deaf and mute community on the importance of wearing t-shirts with signs that showed they were deaf and mute so others can understand why sometimes they won’t doing as told. Elected in 2003, Tamer founded Egypt’s first association for the deaf helping to battle Egyptian stereotypes regarding the deaf and mute, who are often perceived to also possess low intellectual capacities. Tamer’s program seeks to achieve universal literacy among the deaf and mute, through comprehensive services and advocacy.

Maher Bushra, elected in 2003, works in the governorate of El Minya in Upper Egypt. His initiative works with many marginalized groups, including quarry workers, in an effort to inform them of their rights as citizens and to encourage their full economic and civic participation in society.

“The revolution broke the people’s barrier of fear,” Bushra said mentioning that it took the form of a rights-based approach, and stressed on the importance of creating awareness on what it really means to have a democratic and civil state. “We all took part in the demonstrations.”

They helped organize street and societal committees, to maintain security, and were coordinating with Suez, another governorate through a hotline for support and donated over  300.000 EGPs for emergency  support, donating medicine to people in Tahrir.

Tarek Ramadan, elected in 2008, combats social violence through the revival of traditional arbitration mechanisms for peaceful methods of conflict resolution.

Tarek vividly explained his taking part in the protests from Day 1, the clashes with the police and choosing to move from Tahrir Square to other marginalized areas to excite people to take part in creating a change for their future.

“The smell of the National Democratic Party’s building burning was stronger than hash!”

A political activist by birth, Tarek lived on the streets through the revolution.

Magda Sami, elected in 2005, responding to Egypt’s need for qualified therapists for physically disabled children by creating a training program for therapists who are both taught the basics of occupational and speech therapy as well as how to care for a child with multiple physical disabilities. She was in Tahrir Square on a daily basis with her disabled son, and helped spreading awareness on the importance of youth creating sub-committees to voice their opinions and demands. She also took part in the societal committees in two areas, pushing social and political consciousness among its participants.

Sami hated how the media was being partial in covering the protests and made it a point to reach out to journalists, helping them see and understand the bigger picture of diversity within the protests.

Samy Gamil, elected in 2007, provides the deaf with services, facilities, and tools that will enable them to be competitive in the field of information technology (IT).

He discussed how frightening and exhausting the situation was, with him living in the center of all the action. In their area of Alexandria, he learned how to defend himself, and they supplied people with bags of food and other necessities (similar to Ramadan bags) that were bought in bulk and sold at a reduced cost, also offering loans to people until the banks reopened.

Mohamed El Sawy, elected in 2010, is providing space and an enabling environment where citizens become more enlightened in order to make informed choices leading to a systemic and positive cultural and social change through his Sawy Culture Wheel.

“The revolution itself is entrepreneurial,” El Sawy said. “People’s wills are like a flood, unstoppable. I was constantly tweeting updates.”

The Culture Wheel was a platform for people to discuss what they want, not to tell them what’s right or wrong. “It’s up to the people to decide what they want.”

Aside from him advocating the rights of people to express themselves, through various writings and publications during the protests, The Culture Wheel also provided meals to impoverished areas & blood bank trucks to people protesting in Tahrir Square.

Sani Youssef, elected in 2008, works on enabling people living with HIV/AIDS in Egypt to live fulfilling, productive lives, and combat the pervasive social stigma and alienation that they face. “The hospitals were short-staffed since doctors weren’t showing up for their overnight shifts, because people were staying home to protect their families,” Youssef said.

They created a contact list of doctors, their specialties, pharmacies and hospitals, that was shared amongst the neighborhood buildings for emergency use. Sani is currently helping advocate the rights of people by supporting their protests to change a program manager that they find ineffective at the UNAIDS.

“This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the revolution,” Youssef said.

Aly Hussein, elected in 2006, fights a perennial problem for Egyptian hospitals: the deficiency of blood, a product of both sluggish supply chains and cultural attitudes about blood donation.

He offers free health examinations in exchange for blood donations, pursues a media campaign to petition for blood donations, and also advocates in favor of legislation that requires citizens to donate blood in order to acquire certain legal documents, such as a drivers’ license, ensuring a constant supply of blood across the country.

In reflection to his joining the street committees to defend his area, Hussein said, “Never thought I would hold a knife, me, who fights for a blood drop is now willing to spill it.” Thankfully, he never had to.

He provided blood banks for blood transfusions due to the difficulties of transporting blood, particularly because there were rumors spreading that ambulances were stolen by thugs. It was difficult to explain what a blood bank was and that they’re actually trying to save the people. His campaign was widespread covering more than one governorate.

Tandiar Samir, elected in 2003, is professionalizing Egypt’s nursing sector by providing comprehensive training to new nurses.Tandiar endeavors to both curtail the illness, infection, and death which result from hospital errors, while also instilling the importance of high-quality patient care among those that will have the most patient contact.

She provided meals for the area surrounding her organization. Two of her female colleagues were in Tahrir Square, one of them was pregnant and Tandiar was in direct contact with them giving them awareness on how to wash their faces when treating tear gas, and other first aid tips. She tried to send medicine, but wasn’t able to.

Also through her “Fadfadat Shibab” facebook page, a safe place for people to discuss their issues of sexuality, they discussed the issues since everyone was confused and scared. She took her 8 year old daughter to the protests.

Ashoka Staff, aside from being at Tahrir Square and in the field, also offered aid to protestors, and  helped them paint their faces in the flags’ colors, tweeting, blogging, and taking the initiative of spreading global awareness on the situation in Egypt.

Ashoka Fellow Maha Helali said, “The beauty of it all is that Egypt has been reborn … our youth have broken our silence and consent with ‘what we know is better than what we don’t’ … It is all amazing and glorious to experience … their momentum is contagious and we have been revived!”

“We never expected the Youth whom we regard as indifferent, reckless, unstressed and Internet addicts, to be in the end our saviors and guides to freedom… Freedom of thought … Freedom to say ‘no, we will not accept’ … Freedom to shape our future with them for a better Egypt,” said Helali.

Moving Forward

Raghda El Ebrashi, elected in 2010, is creating employment for marginalized youth through a market-based sustainable model catering to business sector needs and market needs thus bridging the gap between the social sector and the business sector and professionalizing the citizen sector.

Raghda is creating a fundraising campaign to rebuild Egypt by Egyptians by empowering impoverished families.

Turning Green

Nabil El Mogi, elected in 2006, aims at introducing a new crop that leads to desert development, the creation of a new industrial profession and a new product for local and export markets.

His idea is based on shifting from the traditional cultivating philosophy of the valley to a contemporary philosophy that suits the desert.

“During the protests, the children were on holiday, and they came and worked for us, collecting seeds on agricultural land away from civilization, our hearing of the protests was like a dream to us,” said El Mogi.

Senior Ashoka Fellow Salah Arafa, elected in 2004, created a sustainable community based model for development founded on the notion that development and modernization do not necessarily entail urbanization or a move to the cities. Salah’s approach to development is one that seeks to address the social, economic, and political problems faced by local communities.

He is currently spearheading a civic campaign for the civil society sector to work hand in hand with the January 25 Revolution.

“We want to play our role in supporting the current developmental transformations,” said Arafa.

When asked by an American Reporter why she was in Tahrir, Ashoka Fellow Magda Sami’s answer was:

“Because I want my children and grandchildren, to live and learn with pride and dignity in egypt”

God bless Egypt!


Innovators for the Public

Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs—men and women with system changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems.

Nairy Abd El Shafy

Nairy is an enthusiastic social activist with a passion for community service and social work. For over five years, she has been exploring the world of social entrepreneurship & innovation through her involvement with over 30 NGOs. An AFS Community Service Alumni to Costa Rica and a passionate advocate to young agents of change through the MOSAIC committee at CISV Egypt.

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