By Ahmed Esmat
26 young leaders from Sweden and the Arab World participated in a fruitful dialogue hosted by the Library of Alexandria and the Swedish Institute in Egypt’s.
For the second time, city of Alexandria, Egypt’s main gate to the Mediterranean, was chosen by the Young Leaders Visitors Program (YLVP to host the follow up workshops and meetings between the participants in 2010 edition.
The YLVP is a leadership and social media program launched in 2008 to support the development of young leaders through a combination of personal development and practical experience, focusing on social media as a tool for positive change.
The young leaders participated in a 3 week leadership training in social media and freedom of expression in Sweden last summer, they gathered last month in Alexandria representing 10 countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Palestine, Yemen and Sweden) to discuss the future of their network and the sustainability of both their personal and professional relationships through entrepreneurship projects.
Javeria Rizvi Kabani, YLVP Program manager in the Swedish institute said that the participants are all young creative opinion leaders who have the ability to influence and change their societies.
“This group has a great opportunity and responsibility to act and lead not only in one’s individual interest, but in the interest of the whole” said Kabani.
Shahrazad Adel, 23years, a teacher from Algeria, said that she applied because she was curious to see what other dimension the social media had beside socializing and making friendships.
I Discovered I am open minded
“It was also very tempting to live in the Swedish atmosphere. I think I may not have applied if the program was else where” said Adel.
“What I discovered about myself is that I’m open minded to an extent that still surprises me. I know I can not only accept the differences but also respect that, I also discovered that I’m living in a real male dominant society”, Adel added.
Adel admitted that she never noticed the lack of equality between men and women in her society, “I think that Allah gave me much more rights than the society is giving me, and that ticks me off”, she added.
On the other hand, Mohamed El Dahshan, an Egyptian economic consultant, 27 years, discovered new things about himself.
“I applied for the project after I heard about it from a Swedish friend and I loved how we worked in teams and the spirit of the group work…I discovered something new about myself that I can take the initiative of doing something that can really create the change we all want”, El Dahshan said.
MENA region creativity
Marina Ferhatovic, a Swedish journalist and one of the participants in the program explained how the YLVP changed her life by bringing together some of the most talented and interesting young leaders from the MENA region, who in their ways all are working to create better conditions in their home countries.
“The program equipped us with new skills to help us navigate and use the Internet to make our work better. The strength of the program is that it was so practical; allowing us to try out new tools and adapts them to our everyday work immediately” said Ferhatovic.
The Swedish journalist learned another lesson according to her own words,“The MENA participants showed me how much you can do with passion, creativity and almost no resources to fight injustice and promote human rights. It is in the nature of young hearts to rebel and strive for change, this is never been more true than in the case of the YLVP group 2010, we did not always agree on everything but we always made sure to end an argument with a friendly smile”.
When she was asked about Alexandria, she answered with a wide smile “the city with its combination of history, culture and beautiful views, was the perfect location for this kind of an event, the visit to the new library was uplifting, and inspired us to look back but also to look forward into the future”.