Mohamed El Sawy

Ashoka Fellow
Egypt,
Fellow Since 2009
El Sawy Culture Wheel

Citation

This profile was prepared when Mohamed El Sawy was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
In 2003 Mohamed established Sakia of Abdel-Moneim El Sawy (The Culture Wheel). Since then it has been operating as Cairo’s cultural hub, serving as an open platform where citizens can be exposed to different streams of thought, express themselves, and debate issues of interest. Through this platform, Mohamed promotes social consciousness by addressing contemporary and taboo issues that affect Egyptian society. This community center provides space for youth from different economic and social backgrounds to express themselves, debate issues of social concern, and participate in launching campaigns and awareness events.

Mohamed’s model for social change is built on a series of experiences and opportunities centered on enlightenment and self-expression. Those tools range from cultural, artistic, and sports activities to debates and knowledge-sharing events. Mohamed facilitates access to these experiences, training youth on how to make the most of them, and ultimately, provides the outlet where they can use them freely; his aim is to create a youth movement that embraces ethical values and freedom of choice.

The center is unique because it provides equal access to all Egyptians, whether as audience or as speakers and performers. Mohamed has also managed to simplify and familiarize Egyptians, young and old, with the notion of social activism, in a country where such a notion was exclusively for the elite and intellectual. The center also upholds the philosophy of involvement, adopting youth-led initiatives and encouraging participation from all in designing new activities. His initiative is distinctive as it is based on a business model, and financed by private sector support, membership fees, and ticket costs. The core activity costs are covered and sustainable.

Today, El Sakia is more than a “cultural center,” it is a home for new artists to perform and spread their message. The Sakia’s goals and functions transcend the art and cultural performances as Mohamed uses it as a center of excellence to illuminate the cultural scene. It is seen by youth and their parents as a safe haven for the exchange of ideas and exposure to the outside world. Mohamed is also adopting annual thematic campaigns to address social, ethical, cultural taboos, and problems that have plagued Egyptian society.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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