My first 6 weeks of officially working for Ayadi Organization I did on-the-ground research of various crafts around Egypt. I was looking to find a craft that has been passed down for hundreds of years and that would benefit from working with Ayadi. My vision was not to create something new. I didn’t want something redundant or to recreate the wheel if it had already been created and spinning, but rather to build on others' work and make more impact.
Today’s global financial crisis is very much reminiscent of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. With the exports and labor-intensive industries being hit harder than Banda Aceh was with the tsunami that swept through its coasts, women were the most adversely affected. This was because of the strong gender composition of many of the most vulnerable industries today.
The change in weather brings with it many a connotation: exam time, beach days, and holidaying. Yet for some, the trip they make this summer will not be on a jet plane or to a resort; they will attempt a trip out of misery, for themselves and their families.
I recently Facebooked (is it a verb yet?) my friends in Pakistan to ask what effects of the financial crisis they’re seeing around them: are people complaining more? Are there more beggars on the streets? Are taxi drivers sprouting even more gloom-and-doom philosophy than usual? Is there a general sense of malaise and fear?
When I arrived in Egypt I had a plan to retain traditional craftsmanship through the empowering development of microfinance. I was in love with microfinance. I loved that it was not a handout, that it was partnering with poor people to launch their own initiatives and that it seemed so empowering and dignifying. So I had this vision that I was going to use microfinance, but I wasn’t sure which artisan skill I was going to focus on (initially I was leaning towards much of the beautiful mother of pearl work and copper work that is done in Egypt…)
If you’re visiting the Youthink! blog, you probably have an interest in development. It’s the buzzword for all the work going on related to poverty reduction, better health, education and infrastructure. But do you ever think about what development really means?
In a recent commercial on oil conservation in India, a kid stuck in traffic jam with his father, notices how none of the vehicles are turning off their engines even though they have been stuck for several minutes. With a very worried look, he turns to his father to remark, “The way all of you are wasting oil, I fear there will be none left when I grow up!”
The World Bank’s Development Marketplace just launched its 2009 competition, which brings me back to my favorite topic: the role of creativity in development. The DM is a grant program that rewards projects that have a development impact, no matter how unconventional.
It is no secret that some South Asian countries are hostile towards each other. Political leaders repeatedly exploit this issue for rallying their nation in order to achieve their vested interests. It is an inevitable issue in every Indian election, and undoubtedly, the situation is the same across the border. Several other forces also fuel this feeling of hatred and hence three generations have grown up with a feeling of ill-will towards ALL citizens of the neighboring country! Needless to say, this is not unique to South Asia.
For many years I had this dream that I would be working to retain traditional craftsmanship among poor artisans in Egypt. I decided to make a leap and see if I as one individual could make a difference in the country where I was born, Egypt. I created a nonprofit, Ayadi (which means many hands in Arabic) and am now in Cairo trying to retain traditional craftsmanship in Cairo.