One of them works for the dissemination of the francophonie and for preservation of Egyptian cinematographic patrimony. While an other are struggling against plastic that pollute the Mediterranean. Marwa El Sahn and Manar Ramadan don’t know each other but represent a same generation of young committed Egyptian people : brilliant, fighters and determined women.
A lockdown in addition of the Ramadan forced Marwa El Sahn, who is director of the Center of francophone activities in the library of Alexandria, to stop her activity. But after two weeks of light containment in Egypt, she came back to her office at the “Bibliotheca Alexandrina”. She published her thesis last year, and organized many workshops or trainings with young french learners during the lasts months. She worked also with a young student to create a “video challenge” on Facebook to promote the artistic activities in lockdown time. Marwa doesn’t spent many time to take care of herself, lockdown or not. She said “I don’t feel well if I’m not working”.
Another really active inhabitant of the Mediterranean city, Manar Ramadan doesn’t want to enjoy the lockdown time to think about her life and realize an introspective work. She is co-founder of the Banlastic association and took part to several debates from Mars 2020 about “sustainable development” beyond the covid crisis and the crazy behaviour of buying that some countries have known. The 31 years old and energetic woman who are Manar explained that : “We planned to do workshops in April, but we must cancel it. Therefore we proposed to participants to follow these exchanges instead of workshops.”
The library as starting point.
Like Marwa, Manar was born and grew up in Alexandria. For both, who never meet themselves, the famous library of the second city of the country get a special part in their life. Marwa works in for 1997- she was employed just at the end of her studies. Manar just passed there, few years ago but this period is significant for her. “I worked there as educator for an exhibition called “Art of the Sea” that showed the plastic life cycle in the sea. I explained to groups of children all the damages that plastic get on the marine world. For me it was a real click.” Shortly after, Manar went study in India to complete her formation of engineer in the field of electro mechanical. Her days in India are a real step in her awareness : she realized there that it’s possible to lead some ecological policies in a poor country. She entrusts : “I also realized at this precise moment that I wanted to work on something more linked to human than the job of engineer.”
2018 for her come back to Alexandria, she founded Banlastic with Ahmed Yassin and Abdelkader El Khaligi (cf last year press article). The association struggle against the plastic pollution through different way. But it counts firstly on the individual wake up call. “For two years we organize workshops or beach cleaning actions everywhere in Egypt to aware people towards the plastic toxicity.” Recently, Manar led two of these workshops in Louxor and Assouan in the south of the country. “In Louxor, when we went in the bazar to propose paper bags instead of plastic one to merchants, I was surprised by their positive reaction. Actually plenty of tourists today are refusing the plastic bags.” In Assouan, the participants to the cleaning operation on the Nil banks could exchange with a guide, specialist on the migratory birds. She explained them how much the pollution is dangerous for migratory birds that live in the region. She also told them how the pollution is a threat for the eco-tourism that is developing on the basis of the migratory birds observation. Manar insists on the fact that “Our actions are dedicated to make people thinking.We know that we won’t change everything one day to another. But even if it changes slowly, it changes nevertheless”.
“Open the perspectives”
Marwa has the same optimism. Never tired, she aims to disseminate the french language and “open the perspective”. “In the centre of francophone activities, our workshops enables the meeting of young egyptian people and african students presents in Alexandria, especially in Senghor University.” From my point of view it’s important to show to the egyptian youth that french language isn’t just France country… and by the way struggle some prejudices.” Racism is still present in the Egyptian society and the CAF constitutes one of the rare place where the young Egyptian, Senegalese, Ivorian or Malian young people can meet. She says “doing activities together, like oratory art games, they learn to be respectful between them.”
Beyond Cairo and Alexandria, Marwa develops many actions in Egyptian government where the francophonie is rare. “ We organize training for teachers and French students from university of Tanta, Assiout, Qena or Zagazig. They spent one week in Alexandria and it’s often a cultural shock.” They are living in region where the traditions control the social life but they meet together in mixed group with people they don’t know. “At the beginning they are very shy. But at the end of the week, they have build strong relations and come back really motivated in their own university”.
Choose action instead of depression…
Beyond the french language and books, cinema is another passion for Marwa.
When we asked her few years ago to create a department “Art and audiovisual” into the library she tried to gather and collect films. “At this time I realized that Egypt was during many years the Middle East Hollywood without open access for population to the films.” Even it’s surprising, there is no cinematographic patrimony protection policies in the country of Youssef Chahine. Therefore Marwa starts a hard analyse work which will end by her thesis published in last October. The edition is l’Harmattan and the title “Pour une cinémathèque égyptienne”. She says sadly that “ A place had been dedicated in Cairo before 2011. But unfortunately after the revolution, nothing begann.”
She is far to admit being defeated on this field. If there exists a fight she is attached to, it’s basically the teaching of tolerance between Egyptian and African, Christian or Muslim. “I’m Muslim, but I was educated in a christian Sisters school. The question of religion wasn’t important at this time.” She wishes young Egyptian could “be educated before judge people” to be open minded with others, respectfully.” On another side, Manar wants simply that the young people of her country be brave against the depression, in spite of the hard circumstances that the country knows. “I believe that we must be engaged, and transform these bad news in energy to act.” With Manar Ramadan and Marwa El Sahn, the young Egyptian people can find inspiring example about commitment and action.