Let Us Co-exist Despite Our Differences 

Written by Fatma Kheir

Twenty-eight year-old Nada Aziz, who takes part as a trainer in the Active Citizens programme organised by the British Council in Egypt, with the cooperation of the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA), could not but express how surprised she was from the first moment she arrived in Myanmar.

 The misconceptions that she had about a country she hardly knew anything about were soon transformed upon her arrival. She focused her attention on acquiring as much experience as possible, and observing as much as she could about this remote country that she is unlikely to visit again.

 Nada said that she expected a politically and socially deteriorating country, with many slum areas. Instead, she walked on clean streets, where people observed traffic rules. There were’ inner city’ areas in the capital, but hardly any vagrancy. 

As for the problems identified through the exchange of experiences with local organisations, under the Active Citizens programme, she learned her first lesson: never have preconceptions about a country you are going to visit,  since these proved to be completely wrong in her case. 

With regard to participating in the Active Citizens programme, Nada says that she has learned a great deal, despite her previous experience of interacting and communicating with international counterparts. She was encouraged to pass on her experience to future trainees during this eight-day long interaction she had with multi-national activists in the programme, on how Citizenship could become a reality and not merely an abstract issue. Being extremely enthusiastic for what she had learned, she will definitely add the international dimension of citizenship to the activities designed for the Active Citizens programme. 

She adds:  ‘I have learned in eight days how to communicate globally, while networking locally through experience exchange.’ As for the value that Nada will never forget, it is the need to create a common ground between partners in society so as to be able to solve problems: ‘we may be fighting each other, but at the end of the day, we have one goal -- to serve our community.’

Muhammad and Nada considered their journey to Myanmar as adding significant value to their skills, due to the interaction with 26 people from eight different nationalities. This is in addition to the intensive programme of visiting organisations working in Myanmar, where they learned that working with no facilities was not a fallacy but rather a reality in that country.

They both stressed that the most important value they have acquired was that people must learn to co-exist, otherwise massive life destruction will be the alternative. This was the very clear evidence they witnessed in a country recently emerging from brutal conflict, and the conviction of the people there. This deserves to be one of the focal points.