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"Our work as young Egyptians has just begun"

Egypt, April 12, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Tara Noronha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Feelings of joy, shared by all ages, in Cairo's Tahrir Square — but many are still feeling the uncertainty of what comes after Egypt's revolution. Photo: Tara Noronha/Mercy Corps

While post-revolution euphoria and optimism linger on the streets of Cairo, one particular question hangs thick: what comes after a revolution? As Egyptians celebrate new opportunities for political and economic reform, they also fear the uncertainty of what comes next. This sentiment is particularly palpable among Egypt’s youth.

When discussing the recent constitutional referendum and the way forward for the new Egypt, I hear these words —

  • Dangerous
  • Uncertain
  • Nervous

Just as often as I hear these —

  • Proud
  • Hopeful
  • Free

What is clear, however, is that young people now feel that they have the ability to shape their country’s future. After all, the January 25 revolution began as a youth movement. Young Egyptians now view themselves as thought leaders and are eager to engage in actively rebuilding Egypt.

However, they are also cognizant of the fact that this power must be harnessed for positive change. “Realizing you have power can also be a dangerous thing,” shared one young male who spent many days in Tahrir during the revolution.

But countless Egyptian youth are working tirelessly to keep the momentum of the revolution alive. One young female entrepreneur told me that she was disappointed that people left Tahrir after February 11th. “Our work as young Egyptians has just begun,” she says. In a sense, she believes that Egyptians should always “stay” in Tahrir and remember their hope and sense of national pride.

Mercy Corps is currently working in Egypt to identify ways to partner meaningfully with local organizations in order to aid young Egyptians in shaping their economic future. Many of the youth I’ve met are bursting with dynamic ideas for enabling entrepreneurship, improving the education system, reducing corruption, increasing access to finance, and improving the ethics of the Egyptian business world. They’re bright, motivated, poised and ready for Egypt’s real revolution.

So what comes after a revolution?

Only time will tell. But if engaged youth have the continued ability to galvanize their peers and promote their ideas for peaceful, positive, and innovative change, I’m very excited to find out.