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Development Express Volume II Issue 1
July 2003



Education for All

One of the most powerful lessons we have learned from experience and history is that education is critical to closing the door on ignorance, poverty and suffering.  Education is an integral step towards opening new doors to prosperity, peace and better health. Education is one of the most potent weapons to wield in the fight against poverty.

As a signatory to the World Declaration on Education for All, Egypt made a commitment to provide quality basic education for all its boys and girls.  Egypt has begun to honour this commitment by increasing real government expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditures from 16 percent to 20 percent between 1990 and 1998.  However, despite significant progress, the quality of education continues to be a concern and disparities in access persist between boys and girls, particularly in the rural areas of Upper Egypt.

For these reasons and more, Canada’s development assistance program in Egypt has made support for basic education a top priority.    Our blueprint for action is CIDA’s Action Plan on Basic Education, which was launched by The Honourable Susan Whelan, Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation, in April 2002.  Here in Egypt, CIDA will focus, in partnership with the Government of Egypt and other international partners, on three critical goals:

 ë         Ensuring access to, and completion of, free and compulsory primary education by 2015;
 ë         Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005; and,
 ë         Improving the quality of basic education for learners of all ages.

Overarching Canada’s work are the principles of aid effectiveness.  We believe Egypt needs to lead its own development and we will respect country-driven processes.  We think there needs to be coherence in approach, so that we are not faced with a plethora of parallel initiatives that dissipate efforts.  We want to avoid a multiplicity of planning exercises.  We need better coordination between donors so we collectively spend more on books and schools and teachers and less on filling out forms.  I believe that donor groups are working better together but we must ensure this continues.  And, we think that education should be a shared partnership with the private sector and non-governmental organizations.

In the few months that I have lived here, I have had the opportunity to see CIDA’s education program in action – from the UNICEF community schools in the rural areas of Upper Egypt, literacy classes with child labourers in the Kom Ghorab pottery factories in Cairo, to culture and education through art in a fishing village near Alexandria.  In every case, I witnessed boys and girls exploring their creativity, becoming more self-reliant and developing a spirit of equality and cooperation.  These are the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty and become participants in Egypt’s future.  Canada stands committed to working with Egypt to achieve the goals of Education for All.

Rick McTaggart
Country Program Director Egypt
Canadian Embassy, Cairo



Success Story from the Field

Back to basics with Community Schools

My first year of formal education in Canada was in a one-room school in a small farming community in Southwestern Ontario. In second grade we moved to a two-room school, a few kilometers away, where I spent the rest of my years of primary education. Ten years later, that two-room school became obsolete, as the Ontario Ministry of Education decided that centralized schools were more economical, provided for greater opportunities (e.g. music programs) and standardized education between rural and urban centers and across the province. From that point until today, Ontario primary school children in rural areas are bused outside their communities to large, district schools. This transition to centralized schooling forty years ago eventually led to the demise of Ontario’s small communities, as they had once existed, as the schoolhouse was also the gathering place for social functions in the community.

Those early memories came flashing back on a recent field trip to Assiut and a visit to community-based schools in Upper Egypt. Our guide was Dr. Malak Zaalouk, Chief Education Officer for UNICEF and architect of the Community Schools Project, since 1992. CIDA became a partner in 1993 and has continued to play a key role.

Assiut is the largest city in Upper Egypt and the region’s chief agricultural center, dealing in wheat and cotton. Traveling the 375 kilometers south of Cairo, you are struck by the fresh clean air and lush green landscape of the Nile Valley. Unfortunately it is also home to some of the poorest families in the country.

In the rural areas of Upper Egypt there continues to be disparities in access of education between boys and girls.  Some reports indicate that about 25 percent more boys attend school than girls.  Reasons for the difference include cultural and economic restrictions such as the distance of rural schools from the village and restricting access for girls who are expected to stay close to home.  Added to this dilemma is the tradition that most girls marry in their early teens, which means that in order to give them adequate education, the system needs to get them in school early and keep them there as long as possible.

During our brief tour, we made stops at two schools, in the hamlets of Abou Teeg and Manfalout. From the outside the buildings are not very impressive. At one, a water buffalo was lazing in the sun outside the door and the building looked more like a barn than a schoolhouse. However, entering the building is like being transported into another world. The walls are likely crude mud brick but that goes unnoticed as they are covered with colorful artwork and workstations for different activities. The mud floors are covered with festive straw mats. Instead of desks lined up in rows (like I remember from primary school) there are small worktables and chairs grouped in different areas. There were about 25 children in each school and they had plenty of space to move around. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, lively and energized – I got the sense that it is very child-focused. And, as I remember from my one-room school experience, the older children were helping the younger ones, proudly transferring their knowledge and reinforcing their own learning at the same time.

At one school, the students had finished their day’s work and we were invited to participate in the end-of-day presentations. Each work group presented the outcome of their efforts while the others critiqued and praised the work. The discussions were lively, with good participation from all. Topics covered mathematics, science and history; students seemed to move from one discipline to the other with ease. There was a sense of confidence from the presenters, especially impressive with foreigners in the room.

The adults in attendance are facilitators – students are in charge of their individual learning. Dr. Malak explained that facilitators are chosen in consultation with the community and trained to guide, give encouragement and evaluate students. They do not lecture but act as knowledge resources for study groups and are charged with creating a positive atmosphere for learning.

Inside the building the only resources that are not made-by-hand by the facilitators or students are the Ministry of Education textbooks and a few other resource materials in the library. All the other teaching aids are made from scraps of paper, cardboard and plastic, which send an important message about the importance of environmental sustainability to students and the community.

Another aspect of the program is the strong involvement of the community. We were introduced to an elderly gentleman who had donated the building for the school. From the pleased look on his face, I sensed that he cared a lot about the needs of children in that hamlet.

The first two phases of the Project successfully established over 200 schools in partnership with the communities of Sohag, Qena and Assiut Governorates, providing education to 6500 hard-to-reach children (about 70 percent girls). The schools have proven that they attract and keep girls in school, teach environmental responsibility and respect for others, and produce students capable of critical thinking and academic excellence. Further, 92 percent of graduates continue on to preparatory school.

A key player in the Project has been the Egyptian Ministry of Education, which pays facilitator salaries and tests children to ensure they can integrate into regular secondary schools. The community school model has inspired the development of the Mubarak One Classroom Schools initiative. Other donors have used the lessons learned as the basis for new programs, such as the USAID Small Schools Project in three neighboring governorates and elements of the European Union/World Bank Education Enhancement Program.

Phase III of UNICEF’s Community Schools Project, now called Support to Egypt’s Primary Education I, will be implemented over a five-year period, from 2003 to 2007 and CIDA will once again be the primary funding agency. This new phase is about long-term sustainability. Key elements include: strengthening the capacity of community organizations, partnering Non-Governmental Organizations and the Ministry of Education, gradually phasing out UNICEF’s financial support and integrating community schools into the One Classroom Schools department of the Ministry of Education.

With the confidence that my early beginning in a community-based school set me on the right course for life, I was pleased to witness that UNICEF and CIDA are prepared to go back to basics in order to achieve quality education for all.

Victoria McTaggart

CIDA Education Policy

      When Rasha Maher first began to go to school, she was completely unaware of the kind of sacrifices her parents had to make to enroll her in public school. Nor was she aware that she is among the privileged few girls in her neighborhood who would get to complete her entire high school degree and move onto university. “I don’t think I ever gave it a second thought until I finished my primary education,” says Maher. “It was not until I realized that many of the other girls in my neighborhood would not be moving on to preparatory school that I asked my mother why do I get to continue in school, whereas they don’t. Her answer completely surprised me. She said that their parents couldn’t afford to keep them in school. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how hard my parents have to work in order to give me a proper education. I also realized that many other families decide to keep their daughters at home because they can only afford to pay for the education of one of their children and usually they choose to send their sons and not their daughters to school.”

      But Maher’s parents did not make that choice. Instead, her mother and father chose to work two jobs each in order to send both their son and their daughter to school. Now, their daughter is a first-year university student studying commerce.

      In recognition that education is one of the keys to reduce poverty and to expedite development, the Egyptian government has taken steps to improve the accessibility of education to all Egyptian children, both male and female. To begin with, the Egyptian government has increased the percentage of public expenditure on education from 10.2% to 20% over the past 12 years, which is roughly 5.5% of the country’s GDP. Egypt has also committed itself to implement the Dakar Education for All Framework of Action, which was signed by 150 countries in April 2000 in Dakar, Senegal. One of the important focuses of the agreement is access to and the completion of primary education by all children by 2015. It also aims at eliminating gender disparities in education by 2005 and the achievement of gender equality in education as well as the improvement of the quality of education for all children at all stages of learning. Because CIDA has made a commitment to work with the agendas of developing countries in order to help them achieve their goals, CIDA has also demonstrated its support for Egyptian education by committing to increase its investment in Egypt’s bilateral program spending to 40%.
While the Egyptian government’s budget for education is in line with the average of most developing countries and even compares favorably to most developed countries. But according to the World Bank Sector Report , more than 40% of the US $3 billion annual budget is spent on non-teaching staff including bureaucracy and administrative personnel. At the same time, class sizes remain a continuing problem and teachers remain underpaid. Teaching techniques are also out of date and focus on memorization rather than creative thinking and creative problem solving. Often, the curricula used are irrelevant and outdated.
Other problems facing the Egyptian education system include the accessibility of children in hard to reach areas as well as the disparity between the enrollment of boys and girls in schools. Almost half of the children who don’t attend schools are among the poorest 20% of the population. At the same time, the number of girls who attend schools, particularly in rural areas, tends to be lower due to several factors, the most important of which is the lack of accessibility to nearby schools as well as the cost of education. In most rural areas, parents do not like their daughters to travel too far from home. At the same time, due to financial restrictions, parents often see educating their sons as a better long-term investment over educating their daughters, since their daughters will get married and become stay-at-home moms.

      As part of the Egypt’s plan to improving the status of the education system, the government developed the Egyptian Framework of Action (EFA) for 2002 –2016. These goals include improving the access to and completion of education for all individuals, improving the quality of that education, review and develop a new curriculum that is relevant to today’s market needs, improve the opportunity for gifted children and expand the pre-school education. Since CIDA has always believed in supporting the development initiatives of the various local governments, CIDA is planning to support the government of Egypt in its education initiatives. CIDA developed a Basic Education Strategy that complements the Egyptian strategy by helping to address three major issues - accessibility to education, quality of the education and equality within the education system.

      According to the EFA goals, all children, especially girls, living in hard to reach areas, should have access to a free and compulsory education. To support the Egyptian government in achieving its goals, CIDA will support projects that provide as many children as possible living in remote or hard to reach areas with high quality education. It will also support early childhood education programming in disadvantaged areas as well as work with the different communities to increase their involvement in the education of their children. Wherever possible, CIDA will also increase education access for children in need of special measures of protection such as children with disabilities and working children.

      At the same time, CIDA will cooperate with the government of Egypt to improve the quality of the education system. For example, CIDA will help in improving the training of teachers and the development of their teaching techniques. It will also help the Egyptian government through the use of appropriate information communication techniques to improve teacher training and curricula delivery. CIDA will also help in the development of a child-centered education system and curricula as well as the creation of a child-based teaching methodology.

      Although Egypt has made considerable strides in increasing the number of girls enrolling in schools, there still remains a divide between the numbers of female versus male enrollment. There is also a geographic divide, which indirectly affects the school enrollment rate of children, CIDA will also work with the Egyptian government in order to develop more equality within the education system. According to the EFA Goals, Egypt will strive to “eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 and [achieve] gender equality by 2015.” According to its Basic Education Strategy, CIDA will assist in reducing the barriers to full and equal participation in education for women and girls through the support of projects such as the community schools. (For more information of the Community School Project, please refer to “Back to basics with Community Schools” by Victoria McTaggart.) CIDA will support efforts by the government to increase the acceptability of education for girls and women as well as the creation of a gender-sensitive curriculum.

      While the fact that the Egyptian government has made modernizing the education system a priority, it is also a fact that such a large undertaking can not be achieved without the continued support and coordination of international donors and partners. That is why CIDA prides itself on working with the government of Egypt and other partners to ensure that every child in Egypt has a fair and equal chance at a good education in order to ensure the development of a better future for all Egyptians.

Rehab El Bakry


Can Practice Reflect the Process?

Education is the base of any development. It is the cornerstone of any civilization. In the developed world, Research and Development (R & D) has become an integral part of any institution as this ensures the perpetuity of the process of education, and therefore, of development. This process of education – as far as the individual is concerned – starts with life itself and ends only with it. In other words, it starts with the family. Formal education starts with the school and continues at university level. Informal education, on the other hand, depends on the individual himself and extends through his/her life. If we consider formal education, basic education – as the term implies – becomes basic to the whole process of learning and development.

In Egypt, we have been facing insurmountable problems with education at all levels starting with the 1960s. Attempts have been made to improve the system, but difficulties seem to persist. Many parents – keen to have their children part of a system that would develop their capabilities, talents and intelligence – tend to resort to foreign systems of education if affordable. Believing that investment in education is the best, they just ‘go for it’, particularly that a UN study has shown that the IQ of Egyptian children below the age of 6 is amongst the highest all over the world. However, after they join school, this high IQ drops drastically – thanks to the system, which is based on rote learning and overloaded curricula. Such parents are not usually happy with their choice and wish our system could offer what foreign systems offer. They gain and lose concurrently. They gain quality education and opportunities for their children to develop their faculties, talents and examine things with analytical eyes. This type of education prepare them for the future. However, they lose – in the process – some of the values that our society cherishes. Children, at times, become confused between what their limited society in their schools holds onto, and what their larger society treasures. Such confusion could have a negative impact that parents failed to foretell.

But what is so special about such schools? It is the methodology, which is key to quality education. Children are curious by nature, like doing things themselves and can be very creative and innovative. This methodology encourages the doing of things; the researching aspect. The Chinese proverb of “ I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; and I do I understand” carries so much meaning and is very much correct.
But this methodology is not confined to foreign systems of education. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Education – in partnership with UNICEF and CIDA have embarked on the community school educational model some years back. This model has proven very effective because it depends on such a methodology. Although the objective was to provide – through community schools – basic education to the marginalized and especially girls in remote areas, integral to this project was the introduction of a methodology based on children learning together with a teacher playing the role of a facilitator rather than a lecturer.

I recall here an acquaintance working in CARE telling me how impressed he was watching children in one of the community schools enjoying a lesson in the Arabic reading class entitled ‘A Birthday’ because they acted the lesson out seizing the birthday of one of them. He returned home and asked his son about his day in school. The latter told him carelessly “we took a lesson entitled ‘a birthday’. When the father asked him to tell more about it, he answered: “I do not remember”. Here is a translation of the Chinese proverb: where the kids lived the event and felt it, they enjoyed it and most probably will not forget it. On the other hand, where it was only an Arabic lesson taught the traditional way, it was forgotten.

One may ask here “but this is education, why do they have to enjoy this process? We all remember hating our schools at one point or another except for the bookworms!” This is absolutely true! We all hated school at one point or another because we were looking forward to the summer holidays to play and have fun with our peers. But we also had to memorize, and much of it is already forgotten. We did not enjoy the memorizing part of it. However, where enjoyment and fun were part of the process, we never forgot it. I will base what follows on a personal experience 35 years back when I was in grade 4; a personal experience that I will never forget because it pertains to the enjoying part and fun part of education.

In my school, we had an American English Teacher for one year. She used to divide the class into two teams and organize a competition between them in vocabulary, composition writing, etc. Even at times, it was pure mathematics. She used to collect one piaster from every pupil to buy candies for the winning team who shared it with the loser. This continued throughout the year. Even the weak pupils in the language classes improved tremendously. It was also a fun class that we always looked forward to. It is 35 years back; I do not remember all the teachers I came across, but this teacher in particular, I will never forget. On the other hand, we had a math teacher who once beat me using a ruler because I made a mistake. The ruler hit my nose and it started bleeding. I hated mathematics ever since! I always wanted to become a physician, but because of hating mathematics even though I have the brains for it, I was not able to make my dream come true. These are two incidents; one teacher made me love the subject, enjoy the lesson while the other made me hate the subject to the extent of affecting my whole career.

The bottom line is that it is the pedagogical methodology that makes the difference. The methodology discussed above is not foreign to Egypt and can easily be adopted. Our problem in Egypt is that we want to resolve all problems in parallel and we tend to take a global approach, i.e. ‘let’s solve the educational problem’. This is not feasible, and cannot be feasible. What we need to do is adopt the new teaching/learning methodologies, train teachers, and adopt the community school model. We need to focus on the new comers to the system and render education ‘a game’ that children can play and enjoy, and therefore, love. It is when the child loves education, then he/she will spend the rest of his/her life learning. Only then will R & D referred to above have a real meaning and become the cornerstone of our development, which is badly needed. In this process of modifying, changing, improving – whatever name is given does not matter – the involvement of the community becomes a must. One reason for the success of the community education model is the effective participation of the community itself. Parents, teachers and pupils need to be actively and effectively engaged in the process. Otherwise, change is never to the better. The heart weeps when hearing such phrases as ‘the educational problems are irresolvable; we cannot do anything; mafeesh faida (no use in Arabic)’ because this gives a sense of despair. But we are people, and people are the ones who ‘make it or break it’. So why not hold hands together to make our future a better future and to – as far as education is concerned – make practice reflect the process. Can we?

Mariam Ahmed

Radar on the road

 Have you ever been caught speeding in Egypt? Have you ever seen the radar on the road? Well, believe it or not the radar on the road does exist and if you’re not careful enough, you might get caught.

The first thing you should know is that different types of vehicles have different speed limits. For example, a car may have a speed limit of 90 km/hr but the speed limit for a big truck pulling a trolley might be 50 km/hr. Drive any faster, and you will be in danger of getting a speeding ticket.

Let me get back to this radar on the road. I travel to my office everyday from Maadi to El Kanater, which is located about 25 km north of Shobra. The easiest but longest way is to take either the eastern or western ring road. We now take the east ring road. Although the might be the longest way, this way avoids the traffic conundrum around the pyramids and the tight overpass in Maadi. The speed limit on the ring road is 90 km/hr for the type of vehicle we drive. My driver, Emad, knows the road very well and avoids the rough spots so as not to disrupt my morning snooze on my way to the office. He usually drives well above the speed limit when he is sure that no radar is near. He’s a good driver and can sniff a radar well before the laser beam hits us from behind. Yes, from behind. That’s partly why the radar and the attendant are difficult to spot. So well before, we are down to the legal speed limit passing the trucks, who by now have been warned by on coming vehicles that a radar is up ahead. We go by the radar trap and note its location. Down about kilometer or so, a barrage is set up by the traffic police who stop the “right” cars. How do they know? The policeman who is near the radar has a two-way radio in hand and radios in the colour and make of the vehicle that has exceeded the speed limit. We slow down at the barrage and continue on our way to the office. That seems to be the routine everyday, but sometimes, we are surprised.

An unusual situation happened one day at a roadblock where the policemen stop all vehicles for checking. This time we were asked to stop completely but no one asked for any papers. Instead the policeman sat in the front seat of our vehicle and instructed Emad to drive quickly. Why quickly? We had to chase a car that had not stopped at the barrage. Our speed went up to 140 km/hr before we finally caught up to the car and forced it to the side of the road. Once stopped, the policeman jumped out of our vehicle and pulled the driver out. We didn’t stay to see the conclusion. The other policemen were following behind and were expected to arrive a few minutes later. The policeman thanked us and shooed us on our way. All in a day’s work.

If you have been on the east ring road before, you will recall that this road has a lot of construction material dumped on both sides. Piles of gravel and rubbish. These spots are ideal for hiding a radar. I have seen a stopped truck on the side of the road with a radar set up in front. That one is difficult to sniff out. But the best so far has been a radar in a concrete sewage pipe resting on the side of the road. The traffic policeman was also hiding inside this pipe behind the radar. Cars were getting pulled over at the barrage on this day. But somehow, Emad’s keen sense of radar detection saved us once again.

If you are caught speeding, the policeman will ask for your driver’s license. If you don’t have local one, then present your international one. With a local driver’s license they will take it away from you and give you a temporary one-week one, which is enough time for the license to get to the office from where it was issued. When you pick it up, that is when you get hit with the speeding fine, which can be quite steep. In the hundreds of pounds range!! With an international license, they don’t want it because they know that it doesn’t have the same value. So what do they take, you guessed right, the vehicle registration. Once again a temporary paper good for one week is given until you go to the place of issue or port of entry to collect the vehicle registration. In my case, this means Alexandria. The registration may take much longer than a week to get there. Tough luck! The vehicle can’t go on the road if you don’t have the registration.

The moral of the story, if you want to have a hassle free trip, don’t get caught speeding in Egypt, avoid the radar on the road, if you can…

Jacque Millette


The Power of Partnerships in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

The story of improved services for breast cancer patients and their families in Egypt is about the power of partnerships.  Two years ago, Egypt had diagnostic and treatment services for breast cancer patients, through the health care system, but there were no complimentary services. What was missing in Egypt was an organization to educate the public and health care professionals about the importance of early detection.  The country needed a centre for information research, outreach programs and support systems for women diagnosed with breast cancer.   And, they needed the services available for all income groups.

Through some chance meetings between Egyptians and Canadians, in January 2002, the idea of a breast health project took hold.  That chance group of individuals, along with others, became the founding members of the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt (BCFE) a year and a half later.  And, the story goes on.

Non-profit organizations need sources of funds and that need sparked a whole other group of Canadians and Egyptians (and several with both Canadian and Egyptian nationalities) to take on the cause for breast cancer.  They (many had connections with CIDA – for example, families of CIDA project managers, staff at the PSU) came together to determine how they could raise funds in support of the BCFE.  Out of their deliberations came the first fundraising event, The Breast Cancer Gala, on March 8, 2002.  That event raised the seed money needed to get the organization underway.  As well, it cemented lasting relationships between a core group of Egyptians and Canadians that made them determined to look ahead to more fundraising the following year.

Platinum Sponsors:
Impact BBDO, South Sinai Hotel Management, Daimler Chrysler, Nile Hilton Hotel, ColdWell Banker, Orascom Telecom, GlaxoSmithKline, Canadian International School, Centurion Petroleum Corporation, Sonesta Hotel, Four Seasons, En Vogue, Marriott Hotel, Mohamed Khedr Co.

Gold Sponsors:
CIB (Commercial International Bank), Davidoff Café and Tchibo, Zoser Hotel, BCA (British Community Association)

Silver Sponsors:
October Pharma, Luftahansa, Thomas Cook, Ahmed Tawfik, Modern Touch, Hussam Sakr, Egypt Today and The Cairo Times

Conrade Hotel, Global Silver Hawk, Virgin Graphics

On May 30, 2003, the 2nd Annual BCFE Gala took place at the official residence of Canada’s Ambassador to Egypt, Michel de Salaberry.  Using lessons learned from the first event, building on the momentum that had been created and using the strength of the partnerships, the 2nd gala was even more successful than the first.  In the words of Ambassador de Salaberry: “ what made this event unique was that it came from the heart.”

There were two hurdles that created great challenges for this year’s organizers.  The first was the changing of the March date which had originally been selected for the gala which had to be postponed due to the start of the military action that began in Iraq.  The committee surveyed the community and determined that while the breast cancer cause was still important, they felt it would be disrespectful to hold a social event while the lives of innocent people were at risk.  Finally the May date was chosen, recognizing that it was in the middle of final exams for school children and at a time when many families were pre-occupied with packing for departure and summer vacation.

The second hurdle was the downturn in the Egyptian economy.  The devaluation of the currency in late January, the general business slowdown because of the Iraqi conflict and the reduction in foreign currency earnings with reduced tourism meant that the business community was tightening its belt.  Fortunately, corporate sponsors, those who had generously contributed to the first event, came back in full force.  And, new sponsors came forward.  In total, 14 corporations contributed thousands of Egyptian Pounds in the form of direct contributions or in-kind services and nearly 200 attended the evening.  Corporate support came from the larger multi-nationals but smaller made-in-Egypt firms were right there beside the “big guys”, helping to make the event a success.  Equally, response from the artist community was generous, with donations of several gifts and countless hours of their time.  Media coverage was excellent and continues to showcase the efforts of organizers and the importance of the breast cancer cause to the Egyptian public.

Egypt’s breast cancer awareness project is truly about the power of partnerships.  It is about Egyptians and Canadians bringing their knowledge, abilities and influence together to make a difference for women of Egypt and their families.  It is about companies publicly demonstrating their commitment to corporate social responsibility.  It is about a small group of individuals, including Canadian Ambassador, Michel de Salaberry, Oncology Surgeon, Dr. Mohamed Shalan, health educator, Mrs. Lori Goodwin, gala coordinator, Madame Diane LaFlamme-Millette and corporate sponsorship coordinator, Mrs. Manal Mahmoud, who gave generously of their time and talents for the cause of breast cancer.  Through these partnerships, the Second Annual Gala for the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt raised over LE150,000!

This story has an even happier ending.  Just hours before the 2nd Gala was to open its doors, the Foundation received notice that its status as a Non Governmental Organization, had been approved. 

The fund raising continues and you can make your contribution to the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt by contacting them at:  Your contributions will assist the women and families of Egypt to achieve the BCFE’s vision of “life without breast cancer”.

Victoria McTaggart is a Canadian living in Egypt and a proud member of the organizing committee of the 2nd Breast Cancer gala.   Unfortunately, to acknowledge in this article the countless individuals who gave of their time and resources is impossible.  Thanks to each and every one of you.

Gala Committee Core Members
Diane Laflamme Millette, Manal Mahmoud, Jean Ducharm, Kathleen Loughlin, Victoria McTaggart, Jennifer McPherson, Rehab El Bakry, Rania El Bakry, and Hatem Abeed

Just days before the event, I took a call from Lila.  Lila, an Egyptian-Canadian and breast cancer survivor wanted to bring her two young adult children to the gala to show them that there is life after cancer.  A quick call to coordinator Diane meant we added more tables to the seating plan so that Lila, and a few others with similar moving stories, could celebrate their triumphs with others.

The residence of Canada’s Ambassador to Egypt is fondly referred to as “the pink palace” and the name fits. From 1948 to 1951, Farida Zulfikar, the then Queen of Egypt, lived in the residence. Canada purchased it in 1952. Presently it is painted pink. For the past two years the pink palace and its well-manicured garden have been the backdrop for Breast Cancer galas. Queen Farida would be proud!

Victoria McTaggart

Government of Egypt Cooperation leading to SME Prosperity

Over the past number of years, the concentration of Government of Egypt efforts to raise the level of awareness of the importance of small and medium enterprise development to the economic fabric of Egypt’s economy has been impressive. The encouragement and development of SMEs in Egypt can ease unemployment and with an export focus can contribute positively to this country’s balance of trade.

The Ministry of Foreign Trade has been leading the recent stakeholder consultation process which is focusing on the development of a renewed strategy for small and medium enterprise development in Egypt. “Enhancing SME Competitiveness in the 21st Century-A Proposed General Policy Framework for SME Development in Egypt” is more than a document, it captures a theme and it involves a stakeholder consultation process that will lead to a polished final product and greater involvement, buy-in and commitment.

It is clear to the Ministry of Foreign Trade that conditions must exist or develop in order for the wide ranging stakeholder consultation process and the end product to be honored and broadly supported.

Key factors that engender success are cooperation, coordination, cooperation and communication in this process. Policy decisions must be made before any laws are contemplated, policy options must be explored before decisions are made, research is a pre-cursor to policy options and consensus is needed on a broad direction or theme before the research begins and certainly before discussions surrounding a prospective law become worthwhile.

“Enhancing SME Competitiveness in the 21st Century-A Proposed General Policy Framework for SME Development in Egypt” and the stakeholder engagement process that Ministry of Foreign Trade is following after endorsement by the Minister, is one that focuses discussion, provides an opportunity for debate leading to decisions on policy directions. An SME Law may result or it may not, other laws may need to be amended, programs may need to be created. However, a new law may not be what the SME sector needs. In fact, repealing and/or modernizing existing laws would more likely have greater tangible results as SMEs can be considered a cross cutting theme within many ministry responsibilities and in many laws.

Competitiveness on the global and domestic scenes for SMEs is critical. Based on stakeholder input, the vision for the sector is:

“The development of a competitive SME sector that can compete in local and global markets, and is hence able to continue to deliver its socio-economic and developmental benefits in the years to come, as well as play a significant role in improving the country’s balance of trade.”

In order to assist with the achievement of the vision, in basic terms the government of Egypt must, from this point on, do four basic and fundamental things:

  • It must coordinate its efforts to a greater degree and acknowledge that ministries and agencies and NGOs  all have a vital role to play to support the SME sector along with the private sector themselves,

  • It must coalesce around a vision and the concomitant actions to support the achievement of that vision,

  • It must “get out of the way” of businesses  to enable that entrepreneurial spirit to emerge by modernizing the public service so that it “serves the public” and individuals become pathfinders for development emerging from their role as gatekeepers

  • It must simplify administration to attract the informal sector to convert to formal.

There are seven areas of interventions, the collective and cooperative support for which will lead to a productive and competitive SME sector well positioned to prosper in the 21st Century. In all cases, public awareness is a vital factor for entrepreneurs to know where to receive advice and the services needed and in so doing help gain their trust:

  • Business Development Services - broaden the depth and breadth of sustainable business development services and add key functions such as technology, standardization and certification

  • Financial services – support for longer term loans in addition to short term lending to finance fixed asset modernization and to provide greater business environment stability and certainty; exploring the opportunities presented through developing equity capital markets

  • Clustering and Networking – providing facilitating, counseling and training services, testing facilities, export and other information

  • FDI and Inter-firm linkages – develop and implement programs to support matchmaking services, information on transnational corporations and subcontracting exchange schemes

  • Export promotion – streamlining import/export requirements and broaden, deepen and enhance the quality of export support services for SMEs

  • Regulatory changes – establish effective one stop shops and streamline existing procedures and regulations, transform the public service from gatekeepers to pathfinders

  • Innovation enhancing interventions – support programs that encourage research and development and increases the business/research community interface and cooperation

The Government of Egypt ministries and agencies should cooperate with the focus on the beneficiaries as the end objective and engaging stakeholders, including the SMEs themselves, as vital steps in the process.  Asking the question: “What are your problems?”, listening to what is said, making a collective, cooperative and collaborative commitment to act in a consistent manner to solve these problems will lead to a more dynamic and innovative SME sector. A key component is to unlock the potential and to support the “entrepreneurial spirit” that is alive and well in Egypt. This spirit is, regrettably, burdened by bureaucratic inertia, uncertainty in policy direction and a low level of trust in government.

Getting the fundamentals right and applying the following broad principles:

  • Developing clear objectives and approach that is based on a realistic understanding of M/SMEs and their potential

  • Consistency with the overall Government of Egypt policy framework

  • Rationalization of the use and allocation of resources

  • Reliance on international and local best practices, using lessons learned from these but with a “Made in Egypt” bent

Adoption, agreement and adherence to the above principles are critical to the success of any policy reform measures. The Government of Egypt must agree on the broad policy direction and coordinating effort in support of that direction, using different policy tools at the government’s disposal, including but not necessarily only, laws, to support the sector.

The constraints of the SME sector can only be solved through the concerted, coordinated and consistent efforts of Government of Egypt ministries and agencies, NGOs and by the private sector themselves, not by the passage of one law. A new law may assist in certain areas, but in order to move to a free market economy, we need to develop an enabling environment which will require much more than legislation, but a fundamental change in the mindset of decision makers, the public service and entrepreneurs themselves.

* This article was originally submitted for a newsletter for the Economic Research Forum. 

Manal Hussein, Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Trade for SME Affairs; and

Greg Goodwin, Senior SME Specialist, SMEPol

The Private Sector Supports Social Development

The Sawiris Foundation for Social Development is the first family foundation dedicated to social development. The foundation was the brainchild of Dr. Ibrahim Shehata, a well-known international consultant and founding chairman, whose idea became a reality in April 2001. Convinced of the importance of mobilizing local resources for developmental purposes, the Sawiris family through the establishment of an endowment fund, are providing grants to NGO partners to implement projects which a focus on job creation.

On June 8, 2003, the Sawiris Foundation held a special celebration to report the results of its achievements over the past 18 months. This event was attended by Mrs. Suzane Mubarak, several high-ranking officials, development practitioners and project beneficiaries. There were several excellent and impressive presentations made by the beneficiaries, who performed short skits that captivated the audience. The messages delivered by the young women and men were clear – wherever there is a will there can be change. With messages such as, “Our lives can change,” “Our participation makes a difference,” “We, the women, are now empowered,” “Although we are diabetic children, we can take care of ourselves and lead normal lives,” “ We help protect the environment. We recycle 80% of the garbage we collect,” “Our projects are sustainable,” the idea that change for the better is possible was loud and clear.

In the health sector, the foundation has supported young men and women in order for them to become health care providers in homes, primary health care practitioners in hospitals and teachers in nursing schools. They also received training to become vaccination coordinators in campaigns for children and pregnant women, supervisors and nurses in hospitals, nutritionists in nurseries and specialists in a health care unit for diabetic children 

In the vocational arena, youth received training to become qualified welders, to work in the tourism industry and to become crew-members and skippers on yachts.

There was also training in support of micro and small business creation. The Foundation has provided seed money to build two bakeries and trained unemployed to operate them and to establish two transfer stations for solid waste management. It has also provided grants to NGOs for the creation and expansion of micro credit units to serve female-headed households, young unemployed graduates and agricultural producers as well as persons with physical disabilities.

In addition, the Foundation established a scholarship program for both undergraduate and post-graduate Egyptians seeking to study in Europe or the United States. This year, seven students with outstanding credentials, were awarded full scholarships. In memory of its founding Chairman, the foundation also funds the Ibrahim Shehata Scholarship for a student to pursue a doctorate degree in International Development.

Altogether, the Foundation has created jobs for more than 5,000 individuals living in the governorates of Alexandria, Cairo, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Assuit and the Red Sea.

Such a model should be replicated by other private sector businesses. It is time we started looking inwards. Linking and involving the Egyptian private sector in development through well-established institutional mechanisms is now a necessary step forward. Our continuing goal for sustainable development in Egypt cannot be achieved through more dependence on outside support. Self-reliance is the key and the ultimate objective to alleviating poverty of the less privileged members of our society.

Sawiris Foundation for Social Development Web-site: 

Suzie Greiss

The Colors of Resistance: Young people from the Arab Region face up to HIV/AIDS

As *Murad entered the conference room of the small hotel tucked in the heart of Mount Lebanon, one could palpably feel the unease of the delegates. He frailly sat down and began to timidly address an audience of around forty people from eleven Arab countries. He began to talk about the plight that HIV- positive people face in this part of the world -the unjust treatment he receives owing to the fact that he is infected with this disease; and the oppressive expense of getting treatment, if it is available in the first place.

Murad is a member of an HIV-positive support group that was established a couple of years ago in Beirut. The group meets once a week and has been a tremendous support for Murad medically, emotionally, and psychosocially. Murad represents what it was like to be a Middle Eastern man trying to deal with his “HIV positiveness”—a condition that is not only medical but one that connotes stigma and discrimination in a society that is unaware, condescending, and discriminating.

It was clear that the delegates had so many questions they wanted to ask Murad, and yet, they were somewhat inhibited to speak the minds. Not everyone was sure what was appropriate to ask and what was not. “Should we ask him how he contracted the disease” was a question that one delegate sitting next to me whispered in my ears! Despite their unease, at the end of the session, the delegates were applauding Murad, the hero who has decided to break the silence that clouts this disease with its idiosyncratic religious, socio-cultural, and political nuances.

This session was part of a five-day workshop that was the fruition of the inter-agency cooperation of three United Nations entities: United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut. The Regional Training Workshop on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights: Young People in Action took place in Lebanon from the 16th to 20th June 2003. I was fortunate to be a one of the forty participants attending the training and who were representing eleven Arab countries, namely Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.

The objective of the training workshop was to mobilize and bring together NGOs from all other the Arab region to serve as a forum to bridge human rights issues, training, and action focusing on youth and HIV/AIDS. The workshop also aimed at empowering young people and NGOs in the Arab region to take human rights actions to counter HIV/AIDS in their communities. The workshop aimed at training youth leaders on the importance of advocacy for human rights pertaining to HIV/AIDS; to expose and share regional and national experiences in this domain. It also aimed at introducing the adapted Arabic version of a UNESCO /UNAIDS joint training manual on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights directed towards young people, as well as to discuss and develop national/local plans of action to deal with the pandemic.

I believe that the strength this workshop offered was the introduction of the interlinkages between Human Rights and HIV/AIDS. Sessions, working groups, and case studies were allocated to introduce the rights of people affected by HIV/AIDS and the rights of people who are not infected in order to protect them from contracting this disease. The right to adequate information; the right to accessible and affordable medicine to protect the right to life and the right to health; the right to non-discrimination and employment; and the right to privacy, confidentiality, and dignity were among the human rights discussed during the training workshop.

 One thing was made very clear that AIDS is not only a medical condition but also a social condition that is surrounded by silence, taboos, and myths because it is associated with private and intimate behavior. Another very interesting optic that was intoducted is the nexus between HIV/AIDS, Gender, and Human Rights. It has been undoubtedly proven that gender inequality is among the detriments of structural vulnerability to the disease. This makes women susceptible to the decease as a result of gender inequality and the imbalance in gender and sexual relations between men and women particularly in condom use.  This nexus, which links HIV, gender, and Human Rights can prove to be a very fecund and interesting area for designing culturally tolerable levels of outreach programs and intervention strategies by CIDA. It was also very clear that for any level of intervention to be successful, there needs to be a political commitment, Civil Society collaboration, and Donor support and partnership to combat and deal with the consequences of HIV/AIDS.

Arab governments also have to play their part and improve their surveillance and monitoring mechanisms and provide accurate figures and estimates of people infected with HIV/AIDS. The disparity between governments’ estimates and UNAIDS estimates is so wide that assessing the real magnitude of the problem to help put HIV/AIDS on the governments’ agendas is still a very big challenge. Human Rights organizations have to play their part, as most of them still see HIV/AIDS from a health perspective but not as a human rights issue. Thus sensitization of human rights groups is paramount to include them in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, it has become clear that a multi-sectoral approach is the best way to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

This training workshop provided a forum for NGOs from all over the Arab World to talk about their programs on HIV/AIDS. As the region is diverse, prevalence rates of HIV infections also vary, as do the culturally tolerated outreach programs that these NGOs implement. The openness of the discussions was a conducive factor to the success of the workshop. All the participants were clear that there is an urgent need to deal with the reality of the situation and thus came the controversial discussion surrounding high risk group namely commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and Injecting drug users (IDUs).  The discussions and cooperation plans that took place during the formal sessions or while feasting on the palate tantalizing array of Lebanese mezzahs were a confirmation that NGOs from all over the Arab world can sit together and reach a common ground something that governments are not always successful at achieving.

* The name of the person featured in this article has been changed in order to protect his privacy 

Karim Tartoussieh


NEPAD Outreach Fund II

Canada Fund for Africa Secretariat

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)


 February 2003 


Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's announcement at G8 Summit in Kananaskis last June regarding the Canadian contribution to the G8's Africa Action Plan included outreach initiatives to encourage better understanding of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) process in Africa. In this context, the NEPAD Outreach Fund II is now accepting proposals from African civil society, as well as the private and public sectors, who are planning initiatives that increase awareness, involvement and support of Africans regarding the implementation of the principles and objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. Examples of such activities include workshops, seminars, consultations, research and publications.

The funds - $2,500,000 - will be disbursed over five years by the Canada Fund for Africa Secretariat.

This project is an extension of the original NEPAD Outreach Fund launched by CIDA in January 2002. We will consider proposals that were received but not funded under the first phase. The NEPAD Outreach Fund II will focus on initiatives that have budgets of CAN $50,000 or less, with high impact in terms of potential results.

Eligibility for fundin 

African non-governmental organizations, as well as groups from the public and private sectors are eligible. Canadian organizations may participate as partners of African organizations.

Criteria for selecting initiatives

  •          Initiatives must originate in Africa and be presented by credible African groups;

  •          Projects must aim to raise awareness of the principles and objectives of NEPAD and must promote constructive dialogue on issues raised in NEPAD, such as governance, peace and security, health, education, knowledge, economic development and the crosscutting issue of gender equality;

  •          The budget of the initiative must be CAN$ 50,000 or less;

  •          CIDA may add criteria as needed, for example, country representation, thematic coverage and other operational considerations.

  • Date for submission and duration of initiative 

  •          Proposals may be presented at any time;

  •          Duration of initiatives is one year or less. Projects of less than six months duration are encouraged.

Submission and approval procedures

  •          Projects may be submitted via the CIDA field office at the Canadian Embassy /High Commission or to the Canada Fund for Africa Secretariat at CIDA headquarters;

  •          Projects are assessed by field office and headquarters;

  •          Upon approval by the Secretariat, funds and a draft agreement are transferred to the field office for signing with the partner organization;

  •          A signed copy of the agreement is returned to the Secretariat.

  •          The final reports will be received by the CIDA field office and forwarded to the Canada Fund for Africa Secretariat.

Agreement signing and payment procedures

  •          Upon signature of the agreement, the partner organization will receive 90% of the agreed budget;

  •          Upon presentation of a satisfactory final report by the partner organization, the remaining 10% will be disbursed if necessary;

  •          Any portion of the budget not used by the approved project must be returned to CIDA.

Presentation of a Final Report and Project Records Keeping

A final report must be submitted no later than 90 days following the funded activity. This report must outline project results (see section 3) and contains a financial report. The partner agrees to keep the records of the project for two years and to make them available to CIDA auditors or evaluators upon request.


Project basic information

  • Project title;

  • Name of organization/contact-person;

  • Mailing address and street address;

  • Telephone and fax numbers, as well as e-mail address.


  • Context, rationale and background of the project.

Description of the project

  • Objectives and nature of the project;

  • Types of participants and reason for their participation;

  • Dates and venues;

  • Management approach.

Expected results

Short-term results - for example, a conference is organized and held; comments made at the conference are summarized; requested next steps are prepared, results are to the local government and NEPAD authorities

Medium-term results – for example, local government and NEPAD authorities are better aware of the recommendations of conference participants and civil society organizations are recognized as effective partners in the NEPAD process.

Long-term results – for example, NEPAD programs reflect the recommendations of a project/conference and civil society organizations are more involved in the implementation of NEPAD.

Detailed budget

An outline of expenses required for project. For example, rental of venue, travel and accommodation, fees for resource-persons, administrative costs. Please note: the NEPAD Outreach Fund does not pay for equipment or other revolving costs.

The budget should be presented in Canadian dollars.

Description of the organization submitting the project

  • Objectives

  • Legal status; Management structure

  • Funding sources

  • Number of employees

  • Summary of organization's activities

  • If the organization is new, please provide two references and the résumés of board members and/or key personnel


  • Proposed program

  • Proposed lists of participants

  • Other relevant documents


Basic project information

  • Title of project;

  • Name of organization;

  • Overall budget and CIDA contribution;

  • Duration of project.

Description of project

  • Objective

  • Nature of project

  • Types of participants and reason(s) for their participation

  • Topics covered

  • Dates, venues

  • Please include program in annex

  • Management approach (including who managed the project)

Summary of results

  • Discuss expected results and actual results

  • Analysis of any gaps between expected and actual results

  • Analysis of the gender equality measures and their contribution to the project

  • Sustainability of results achieved

Lessons learned/Conclusions

  • Lessons related to achievement of results

  • Lessons related to implementation of the project

Financial report and reconciliation

  • Detailed expenses

  • Report on unused funds. Any unused portion of funds and/or related interest not used for the purpose of the project must be returned to CIDA


  • Actual program

  • Actual lists de participants

  • Other relevant documents 


Steven Morris

Senior Program Officer
Canada Fund for Africa Secretariat
Canadian International Development Agency
200 Promenade du Portage
Hull, Quebec
Canada K1A 0G4

Telephone: 819 956 9656
Fax: 819 953 5845




Egyptian Women and Male- Female Interactions

Relationships and interaction between men and women in Egypt depend on two variables –  who is involved and the environment and context of the interaction. Social contact is much less casual than it is in Canada. The degree of restrain differs depending on the background of the men and women involved including social class, family and individual ethics and values, education, professional framework, and relationships of the people involved.

Women interact freely with other women and male relatives. In many cases, free interaction also extends to colleagues, close friends, and neighbors. However, public appearances are a significant factor to both Egyptian men and women depending on the place and context of the interaction (e.g. office versus a public place, amongst other friends versus strangers). In this respect, Canadians socializing in public with other Canadians or with Egyptian women should observe appearances. Overly enthusiastic greetings or showing too much familiarity towards people of the opposite sex, such as hugging, kissing on the cheeks or touching can be incorrectly understood. Some women, particularly veiled ones, prefer not to shake hands with men. In recent years, also some men do not shake hands with women. For Canadian men greeting veiled Egyptian women, it is best to wait for the women to initiate the advance. Public display of intimate affection, even between married couples, is unacceptable and even when tolerated from foreigners, can create mixed feelings and awkward reactions. 

Canadians often regard women as being disadvantaged in Muslim cultures. In Egypt, an increasing number of women are highly educated professionals, who hold responsible positions. Most Egyptian married women have the decisive voice in family matters such as up bringing and education of their children and family finances. The recent trend of wearing veil and fully conservative clothing is, in most cases, the women’s choice and should not be taken as an indicator of their role in the society.

Egyptian men learn at an early age to shield and respect women. Respect is also affected by the female’s degree of education, age, and status in the family or community as well as by the aptness of her dress and behaviour. Mothers are particularly privileged and men have great esteem for their mothers.  Canadian women working in Egypt are advised to observe their dress code (conservative western style) and behave in accordance with their environment.

With this being said, Egypt is a patriarchal society and still has a steep ‘gender gap’. A good percentage of Egyptian women and girls are suffering different kinds of repression. Reasons include poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, traditions, erroneous and or exaggerated religious beliefs and viewpoints, habitual and uninformed child rearing practices, inadequate schooling and poor school curricula particularly with respect to gender equality issues, and prohibiting legalities.  Civil society now is pressing for greater social, legal and personal freedom for women while aptly preserving the Egyptian culture against blind adoption of Western views and practices.  

Sanaa Hafez




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