Advocacy group to press for rights by pressuring policy makers

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By Mennatallah Fouad Youssef

CAIRO: As the presidential election nears, political activists are launching several campaigns to bring attention back to the forgotten goals of the revolution.

One of these was at first understood to be a political awareness campaign to urge people to vote. However, Protect Your Voice is a local pressure group that aspires to create a large membership base in order to address and enforce human rights and pressing issues in society.

Once it gains people’s support, the campaign aims to mobilize masses across the country to act as a power to advocate certain rights.

“There was a misconception that we are running an awareness campaign for the people to know their rights but this in not the entire case,” said Seif Abou Zeid, one of the founders.

“We do want to inform the people of their rights, but that is only the first phase of our initiative. Right now we want people to understand these basic rights, and also understand that we will use our voices to pressure decision makers,” he said.

Unlike other pressure groups, Protect Your Voice does not have political aspirations, does not adopt a certain ideology, and does it advocate the rights or opinions of one sector of society.

According to its declaration, the initiative was created to “advocate the rights of Egyptian people and make them watchdogs over policy makers.”

The campaign, which began in 2012, is currently working in greater Cairo, the North Coast, Suez and Upper Egypt, with 20 local leaders divided amongst 20 provinces.

“We have created a democratic system of management, where were have a board made to only coordinate between local leaders across the country who are in charge of the whole process. They decide the issues that are to be worked on, and mobilize the people,” said Abou Zeid.

While other pressure groups might have leverage through having strong connections with the media, or having excessive funds, which Protect Your Voice currently lacks, they are heavily dependent on creating leverage through vast popular support.
“Support, mobilize and pressure — that is our plan,” he added.

“We plan to create our grassroots [campaign] by attracting about a million supporters everywhere to make this work. By the beginning of April we will have finished drafting our charter and will begin with three pressing issues that need to be solved.”

The priority issues include local problems such as providing people with butane gas cylinders in Upper Egypt regularly, and other national issues such as stopping military trials for civilians.

“To enforce these issues, we will target decision makers whether in the legislative or executive authority and we will be using the coming presidential election to show people that voting power can be used as a pressure point,” he said.


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