2020 INTERNATIONAL ALUMNI ESSAY CONTEST WINNERS’ ESSAYS
Community Transforming Journey
HOSSAM, Soltan (2013 MPP, Egypt)
I was raised in a poor farming family in Upper Egypt where there are marginalization and lack of opportunities. The poorest governorates in Egypt are located in Upper Egypt, in addition to many other problems related to inequality, deterioration of education, infrastructure, and governmental services, and clashes among families. In addition to those challenges, my tribe had had a battle with another tribe in 1965 (I was born in 1986) and in that battle, a man was killed from the confronted tribe. According to my community culture, the tribe of the victim has to kill a person from the killer tripe. This is what is called the tradition of revenge killings (Al-Tar), also known as blood feuds or vendettas. Al-tar feuds often originate in conflicts over money and land and may last over half a century. Killings become justified on the basis of protecting “pride, honor or land”. In fact, the vendetta remains obligatory for all male clan members and it doesn’t have to target the actual murderer, as long as the retaliation is deemed proportional to the original murder. In such an environment, many questions have dominated my mind regarding other possible alternatives such as peace and non-violent conflict resolution and how to flourish such culture and shift minds and beliefs.
In 2013, I joined KDI School, where I experienced a new world not only in terms of the great educational system and the type of classes we took but also the environment of diversity where I dealt with students from all over the world and we could cooperate together to make a wonderful colorful schooling community. Also, the school trips made me open my eyes to a new world and try to think about the challenges I left back in my community.
In addition to such a great environment, the courses I took have inspired me to make a change in my society and do my best to bring the knowledge I got at KDI to my community. In KDI, I took courses related to different policies that were applied in different countries around the world and how those policies had been designed, implemented, and analyzed. I still remember that the “Leadership and Ethics” course was the one that really pushed me to not waste more time and start planning to lead the change in cooperation with my society. The Leadership and Ethics combined with the Civil Society courses have put the light in my way. They provided me with the tools to make a change. In order to make sustainable change, I need to be a leader and gather the community using a participatory and button-up approach. Since I learned at KDI that the only thing which guarantees the success of a policy is the participatory and bottom-up approaches, I decided to conduct different discussions with the community about its challenges and share thoughts and ideas about those challenges and the best ways to tackle them.
After the discussion, I established an NGO to be the legal and neutral umbrella to represent people of all the different tribes and religions. We listed down the community challenges and we found that they are mostly related to clashes among tribes, poverty, and the environment.
After many meetings and discussions, I conducted with the community, I decided to open a community school for civic education where kids and other community members learn how to deal with diversity and how to become civic engaged, tolerant, active citizens, and peaceful. The school started in 2015 and it is still open till today.
According to the data collected, the school contributed to decrease the violence among students in the formal schools with 37% and the clashes among families due to violence among kids have decreased by 23% in the last 3 years. Also, one of the results of the community discussions was electing a committee to deal with future challenges including emergencies and irregular incidents.
This committee, including me, has been playing a great role to defeat Covid 19 in my community since it appeared in March. We established an awareness campaign to show people how to deal with such a pandemic and currently we are establishing a local hospital for Covid 19 patients. Also, we are doing a lot of economic activities to support those people who lost their jobs and the owners of small businesses that were affected by the Covid 19 pandemic.