CAIRO: Seven students from America’s Ivy League Yale University came to Egypt to intern at several governmental bodies this summer, providing them with something of a crash course in the most pressing economic and social issues affecting the country.
The students are spending their two month stay at four separate entities.
Three of them are interning at Egypt s International Economic Forum, two at the National Council for Human Rights, and one student at the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood, while another is due to start at the National Council for Women next month.
The students applied for their summer stay through Egypt s International Economic Forum, where Ashraf Sweilam, executive director for international relations and research and a Yale alumnus, organized the application process.
Having secured their positions, it is hoped the internships will provide on-the-job training in various fields, as well as insight into a society that is far removed from the student’s own North American backgrounds.
Jennie Nevine, who is interning at the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood, is excited about the idea of working with a government body which does community service.
I ve been going on visits to schools outside Cairo that are part of the council s education initiative, said Nevine. The girls are so excited about being in school and the schools are very bright, cheerful and clean, she added.
Nevine has been working at the council on Aflaton, a program for children aged six to 14 that teaches them financial and social responsibility and child rights.
The two students interning at the National Council for Human Rights are also doing a fair bit of traveling, although their trips are likely to show them the darker side of life here. The National Council of Human Rights is a governmental organization aiming at promoting, developing human rights, spreading awareness of these rights and ensuring their practice.
The first part of the internship will be the field work of the council, said Jumana Shehata, communications director at the National Council for Human Rights.
“They will work with the ombudsmen unit, going to different governorates and receiving complaints from the citizens there. The second part will be the day-to-day operation of the council, which includes research, reports and filing those complaints to the responsible ministries and following up with them, she added.
I was interested in [interning somewhere] that would be a window into both Egyptian culture and politics. I got that at the National Council for Human Rights, said Anders Pauley.
We ve been to Kafr El Shiekh and other villages where we met people and received their complaints, said Anders Pauley. Most of the complaints we ve received are issues related to living conditions and jobs, he said.
According to Pauley, other complaints include water supply, garbage collections, and bread shortages, as well as people who used to work abroad and are not allowed to bring back properties they ve obtained there.
The basic concerns of the people are economic and labor related, he said.
Interacting with the average Egyptians living outside the city gave the students an idea of where Egypt stands in terms of human rights conditions.
There is still a lot of work to be done, which is the case in every country. The issue needs constant improvement, said Dharna Shah, another intern at the National Council for Human Rights.
My idea is that there has to be human rights education in general. Just like any other place, the people need to know what defines human rights and the rights they are entitled to and deserve, said Pauley.
The students will also be working on the Human Rights Campaign Project, an awareness campaign in Qaliubiya, which trains teachers, lawyers and others on human rights through lectures and workshops.
We are going around different departments, learning. We also helped organize an event at the forum for Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico. It was a great deal for us to meet him in person, said Amira Valliani, an intern at Egypt s International Economic Forum.
The next step for the three students visiting Egypt s International Economic Forum will be assisting in setting up a new research division within the forum, a non-governmental body that works on economic reform in Egypt.
The majority of the students concur that besides the internships, coming to Egypt is a whole new experience for them.
There are so many places we want to visit. We are hoping to go on a trip to Luxor and Aswan, said Nevine.
And despite the hardship some of them are being exposed to during their internships, it seems the general impression the students will be taking home is a positive one.
Egypt is great . I m surprised by Cairo and how the people are so friendly here, said Valliani.