By Claire Davenport

In Youth in Egypt: Identity, Participation, and Opportunity (NYU Press, 2023), Nadine Sika ’97, ’00, associate professor of comparative politics, paints a picture of young people as Egyptian citizens in their own words.

“I wanted to investigate how Egyptian youth see themselves as a force for transformation and how they are passionate about making a positive change,” she explained.

The book tells a new story about young people — looking at them not just as an age group but as actors for change in the public sphere. Sika was inspired to explore this topic while conducting research on youth in the South Mediterranean. “We got a lot of insight into how young people participate and engage differently in the public sphere,” she explained. “After the research project ended, I wanted to do more.”

The book draws on qualitative and quantitative analysis with almost 100 interviews and focus groups and a survey analysis of 1,200 young people. Sika worked with AUCians, including undergraduate and graduate students as well as alumni, to conduct the qualitative analysis, interviewing youth and civil society actors from various sociopolitical and economic backgrounds over a three-year period. “AUCians are the backbone of this research,” she said. “As a team we would sit together, think about what questions we wanted to pose, how to do the research and who to target.”

Youth as Active Citizens 

Sika’s research shows that youth in Egypt perceive themselves as members of society with agency and a desire to contribute to positive change.

“A lot of people think that youth aren’t interested in public engagement, but the majority of young people we worked with see themselves as a force for development and impact,” she said.

Sika also looked at what marginalizes and disenfranchises youth as well as the lack of economically marginalized youth representation in the public sphere.

“We always hear that education is the opportunity for upward mobility. However, educated young people coming from lower economic backgrounds are less likely to have better life chances,” she said. “What we found through our research was that youth from disenfranchised backgrounds really need to have their voices heard.”

Sika hopes that this book serves as a reminder that young people want to continue taking part in shaping the future of society in Egypt and the region at large.

“Youth in Egypt are actually vibrant, present and optimistic about their future,” she said. 

Nadine Sika

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