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INTERSECT COALITIONS

EGYPT - CAIRO

In August 2003, Sally Fisher from INTERSECT (NY) and Cookie Edwards from the KZN Intersect Coalition (KwaZulu Natal - South Africa) set up an Intersect Coalition with interested agencies, medical and service providers and members of the Refugees Community residing in Cairo, Egypt.
 
Many people were interested, as this was a chance to bring together the different agencies and for them to network with each other and to work together in a campaign towards a common goal that they share regarding HIV/AIDS and Violence against Women.  Contact was made with the interested parties and meetings were set up prior to our arrival by Barbara Harrell Bond from the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies based at the American University of Cairo. Ashraf Milad Ruxi, who is a Legal Deputy Officer, based at EOHR Refugee Legal Aid Project and Afaf who is a Sudanese refugee living in Cairo.
 
On the 21st August 2003 a series of Coalition Building Sessions with Refugee organizations, medical personnel, and a few Egyptian NGOs was begun and a needs analysis was completed on their concerns, goals and sectors involved.  On the 23rd August 2003 a meeting was set up for refugees although some of the agencies also attended and the same process was done as in the first meeting. The outcomes from the groups were amazing and it was determined to be important to share their concerns with each other. 
 
A document was compiled and by looking at the concerns, goals and sectors involved it showed that the needs are basically the same, awareness raising, and education on violence against women.  Site visits were made with Task Force members to agencies to build partnerships with them and to identify their areas of work.  It was interesting to see agencies that have no resources but do amazing work in their communities, it is just commitment, dedication and the vision they have to empower their people.
 
There is such a great need out there to set up this coalition so that everyone can work together in implementing and sharing the little resources they have and to work towards the common goal they have, which is violence against women.  Egyptian, South and North Sudanese, Somali, Ethiopian and Palestine agencies do not/will not work together, everyone sees to their own. Following discussions with the people and agencies regarding the Intersect Coalition, they were very excited as they feel that this will bring them together to a common ground.
 
The whole thing is most of the refugees feel that because they are in Egypt they do not have the same privileges that the Egyptians have and that is also why most of them are unregistered community based organizations.
 
Apparently, to be a registered NGO in Egypt, there is a very long process and in most cases the Egyptian government refuses them. It seems as if this is a part of the world where there is no history of social service / safety net as the family was always responsible for its own. There is also great resistance to foreign NGO's providing foreign solutions to local issues, but if you really look at the situation, refugees are not a local issue so can possibly access foreign assistance, like coming together to form the Intersect Coalition for a common goal.
 
The way forward regarding the Coalition: Co-ordination will be taken on by two people, one Egyptian and one Sudanese, they are Dr Magda Ali who Director of an organization called Ma'an and Ashraf Milad Ruxi who is the Deputy Legal Officer at EOHR Refugee Legal A  Project. They will work together with a task team / core group, which will consist of various role-players to strategize on how to take the Intersect Coalition.
 
In Coalition Building Sessions held with different agencies in Cairo to explore how to set up the Coalition, three groups were formed to look at how they could take the process forward. 
 
The task given to the groups on both days are as follows:

1) what are our shared goals 
2) what are our shared concerns 
3)what other sectors should be involved

Group I: What are our shared goals?
1) raising awareness
    a) health
    b) legal
    c) social
    d) educational
2) capacity building and empowerment
3) influencing policies

Group II: What are our shared concerns?
1) Lack of legal status, financial and educational resources
2) Suspicion about NGOs activities and poor integration of refugees and
    Egyptian NGOs
3) Lack of awareness
4) Lack of safe place (safe-houses/shelters)
5) Difficulty in community co-operation and participation
6) Not enough networking - hierarchical communication problems
7) HIV - will not declare status because of stigmas
8) Prostitution

Group III: What other sectors should be involved?
1) Egyptian authorities
2) Educational institutions
3) Employment opportunities
4) Awareness programmes and refugee self-help projects
5) Family planning

All of the above were recommendations from the different agencies.  Below are recommendations from some agencies and refugees that were divided into groups.

Group I: What are our shared goals? 
1) Education
2) Ability to make their own decisions 
3) Eliminate discrimination against women and girls
4) Raise awareness in all fields
5) Respect women as an independent, equal and creative creature
6) Give women the right to express themselves openly

Group II: what are our common concerns?
1) Finance
2) Government
3) Sexual harassment
4) Cultural ( customs and traditions), social and education
5) Religion
6) Lack of co-operation between men and women
7) Domestic violence
8) Gender inequality

Group III:  what other sectors should be involved?
1) To try and establish a refugee women's association
2) Setting up small groups according to communities to discuss issues
3) From small networks in the communities leaders / coordinators should feed information on issues into the bigger Coalition and take back information.

Possible actions that could be taken:
1) Awareness raising
2) Establishing a more solid association for refugee women
3) Income generation programs (through small projects)
4) Using art (music, role-playing, dance and etc)

Awareness raising:
1) Natural leaders
2) Media (TV, radio and press)
3) Training, workshops, seminars
4) Churches

Income generated projects:
1) Skills training
2) Market needs
3) Advertising
4) Direct funding

Preliminary ideas that came forward from the groups:
Although the problems are great regarding violence against women and HIV, there is a need to prioritise, to look at short, medium and long term goals.  The coordinators with the assistance of the task team of the Cairo will mobilise the different sectors on how they can integrate in working together towards their common goal.

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