By Reem Abouemera

“I really believe that students, especially university students, are the strongest asset a country can have. They’re the most important pillar in society that can make great change. However, we need to remember that we’re one to be able to make any kind of change. Collective ideas are what make us stronger,” says Youssef Hashem, president of AUC’s student-led Debate Society.

Unleash Your Voice student winners

In Spring 2021, the Debate Society brought together faculty, students, specialists and actors to engage in a conversation on the influence of state and society on sexual harassment in Egypt, questioning who has a larger influence: society or the state? The debate came within the scope of the Student Coalition awareness
campaign to combat sexual harassment and discrimination within the AUC community, initiated by the Debate Society, Psychology Association and Literature Club student organizations.

To provide an incentive for students to speak their minds and participate in the discussion, the debate was held in the form of a competition, and the three winning teams received monetary awards. Rihem Sejil and Mohamed Aharchi, recipients of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Undergraduate Scholarship funded by the
U.S. Department of State, came in first place. The second place team members were Shahd Aly, Ibrahim El Nemr and Nada Kahla. Ibrahim Hammoud and Mirna Saber came in third place.

Sejil, a freshman, says that debate shaped her perception of reality growing up, and she believes it’s one of the best initiatives for educating people.

“There are gaps within our understanding of sexual harassment that need to be bridged, and this can only be done through dialog, especially if a certain issue is considered taboo,” she explains. “Debating sets a perfect atmosphere for people to speak freely and respectively. There are still issues in our communities that we avoid talking about because of cultural or religious constraints. The only way to overcome these obstacles is to recognize the phenomena and establish a diagnosis that eventually enables us to create solutions.”

The competition is “only one of many plans that we’ll continue to organize,” says Hashem. “We have specific goals and activities to keep awareness high. This isn’t an issue that will end in a month or even a year. It needs to be sustained and tackled quickly.”

The Debate Society has played an active role in AUC’s SpeakUp Dialog Series. Student members exchanged ideas and viewpoints in the session, “Do Portrayals of Gender in Media and Film Reflect Reality or Shape It?” In addition, at MySafeUni Day, the team shared student views on how to make campuses harassment-free.

“Any well-educated person has a responsibility to work on the issue alongside the state. It’s a battle we all need to contribute to. And our contribution doesn’t have to mean organizing events or hanging posters. It can be as simple as starting with our own circles and bringing the issue out to the open,” asserts Hashem.

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