Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Recently in Egypt, intolerance, lack of empathy and discrimination against women, Christians and various minority groups has been on the rise, becoming deeply rooted in the society. The absence of information about basic human rights principles, lack of programs relating theoretical concepts of human rights to people’s daily lives and the misinterpretation of the values of tolerance in religions have escalated the problem of intolerance in Egypt.
Recent outbursts after the January 25th revolution between and within sectors of society have highlighted the extent to which a positive mind shift towards tolerance and acceptance is necessary within the country. There are currently no programs in Egypt by CSOs or others that specifically and comprehensively focus on fostering tolerance and acceptance.
In Egypt, religion continues to have a prominent presence in people’s lives, where religion-based tensions have recently resulted in acts of violence. Ignorance about the other and misinformed religious beliefs resulted in rifts and acts of hostility among community members.
Such tensions and biases do not emerge from a vacuum. In Egypt, one of the main reasons behind this tension is the lack of rights-based education. The education system is top-down, and restrictive, leading to an environment where creativity and innovation are penalized. Furthermore, the current educational system does not provide objective information on other religions. Therefore, it does not create a culture of understanding between Muslims and Christians or other belief systems.
Additionally, there are no tools provided to young people to properly express their ideas of tolerance and acceptance. In the formative environment of children and youth within the family and in schools, basic rights such as self-expression and the ability to debate and are often discouraged and disrespected. Barriers placed by society and censorship enforced by the government further hinder children’s self confidence and critical thinking skills.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Yousry’s tolerance initiative is the first interactive classroom-based model where children and youth use the principles of the Universal Human Rights Declaration, relate them to their daily life, engage their families thus spreading them to the wider community and create local initiatives to put the principles into practice. Yousry’s idea is not only unique in content by using the Universal Human Rights Declaration principles but also unique in the methodology he follows which relies on involving parents, students and the community at large in implementing local initiatives.
The interactive classroom model fosters empathetic behavior and creates a culture of tolerance among children at a critical age. It brings in several stakeholders to reject intolerance and the lack of empathy among community members with a specific focus on Muslims and Christians.
By transforming their mindset early on, Yousry and his 600 instructors create informed future leaders to act as advocates of tolerance and empathy in a diverse range of life situations. Using the principles of the Universal Human Rights Declaration gives young people a foundation for a new way of thinking and viewing the world instead of depending solely on traditional, cultural, and misinterpreted religious ideologies.
Yousry believes that when empathy and tolerance are parts of the fabric of every child’s education, children and youth in every community will gain the skills to abolish discrimination, work across differences and build an inclusive and progressive society.