In an unprecedented move, through affirmative action to empower Egypt’s young people, 80 of Egypt’s Members of Parliament are under 40 years old. Although they have various social identities, cultural backgrounds and political aspirations, they all have the people’s confidence in being the voice of youth with an eye for the future.
Watani was keen to talk to some of those young MPs to learn of their dreams for the young people of Egypt and what they hope to bring about.
Homes and jobs
As an architect, MP Mai Mahmoud believes that adequate, affordable housing is the main problem facing the young in Egypt today.
“We should get rid of random building, whether building upwards or in overcrowded areas full of people who should be rehoused,” she says.
Also on housing, Dina Abdel-Aziz explained: “Young people are expecting a mega housing project where they would find homes they would be able to pay for. But first we should create the proper climate under which they would find suitable jobs to secure decent living standards.
“However, responsibility does not lie solely on our shoulders as MPs, nor solely on the State’s, but on the young people themselves. Before they demand their rights they should first attend to their commitments and should properly fulfil their roles. This requires tightening laws against corruption, rewarding those who achieve, and penalising those who neglect their roles.”
John Talaat told Watani that the role of the House of Representatives involves trying to solve the problem of unemployment and poor jobs through investment in the workplace. He referred to the importance of modifying certain laws that concern investment and reforming the work market. “Technical education also needs more attention so that graduates are qualified to work in their chosen field,” he says.
Financial and political initiatives
In this context, President Sisi has offered an initiative that enables young people to take out loans at only 5 per cent instead of 13 or 14 per cent. This will help them not only to find work but also to become project owners.
“Young people should grasp this golden chance,” MP Yasmine Abu-Taleb agrees. She called on them to take part in the upcoming elections for local government, especially since there is a quota of 12,000 for young people. “It is a great opportunity we have not seen before; it is a step forward towards creating a generation who will become professional in social and political work.”
Tareq al-Khouli, who himself comes from a lower middle-class family, understands the anguish felt by young people of this class, whether or not they are interested in politics. But while talking to Watani, Khouli focused mostly on those who do have an interest in politics. “They are in a state of disorientation as they cannot find powerful political parties to attract them. Instead, there should be clear legal channels for them to offload their political energy inside giant party-institutions. This won’t be achieved unless political party life in Egypt is enhanced.”
Khouli thinks the new generation should learn more about political work and parliamentary affairs. “We can’t deny that we are on the right track,” he says, referring to the 80 young MPs in the House of Representatives today. “This presents a glimmer of hope. Parliamentary work will only be propagated with practice and experience.”
Sports and IT
Marianne Amir Azer believes Egypt’s young need more effort on two important fronts: youth and sports; and communication and information technology.
“In the sports field we cannot dismiss the efforts made by the Ministry of Youth to develop sports centres,” she says. “However we need to modify many of the laws concerning ‘professionalism’ which are discussed through the committee of youth and sports.”
As for communication and technology, she adds: “This is the only means that contributes in improving the living standards of young people.” For its part, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology is doing its best to train the young and develop their skills so that they can find job opportunities in various fields.
Mona Abdel-Aati dreams of better education in Egypt, and this led to her join the committee concerned with education and scientific research in the House of Representatives.
“Advancing education will definitely be the root for advancing Egypt. Good ethics and education will work to awaken the conscience of young Egyptians and accordingly combat corruption,” she says. She considers herself fortunate in having received a good education. “I am not a graduate of a private or language school. I went to a public school, where I received a first-class education. I learnt principles and ethics before anything else.”
She adds: “I wish we could go back to the good old days when principles and good character held precedence over all else.”
10 February 2016