A main reason behind the ongoing political unrest in Egypt is that the citizens, especially those living in poverty, typically fail to find an institutional channel that takes their voices into the planning and decision making process. The Ground Level Panel (GLP) was not only rich in terms of the content produced, but also it provided a transformative space where panelists were able to challenge their capabilities and self-hindering beliefs. The process was not only able to prove that citizen’s participation is a right that enlightens, but also it provides a more stable alternative for expression. It also moves the hearts and hands towards a locally-owned change.
As an attempt to reflect on the fruitful process, the diverse group of panelists has gone through three main stages, leading to individual and collective shifting from a black-and-white towards a more dialogue-oriented attitude:
Stage one: Why we are here?
Despite the fact that the panelists were informed about the purpose of the GLP, the majority of them had no clear expectation on what they will be doing. They tried to believe it was training, and they ended up not being satisfied with this clarification. That is why they became investigative and developed a will to understand.
Stage two: Can we do it?
Now the panelists know each other, and they understand how the GLP works. But they face a challenging fear that they are not qualified to meet the expectations of the event. This challenge existed in both individual and group levels, for example, a senior female panelist always conforms to the views of the male panelist, and she justifies this with a belief that ‘men know better.’ Another example, a common concern that the output of the GLP will not reach the UN or make any difference at least, and they justify this as they are ‘less knowledgeable and capable than the UN.’ Eventually they become more confident as they see the meaningful output of each session.
Stage three: We want to move forward, not go back
This is the peak of the GLP where panelists develop a louder voice, where they want to share as many stories and opinions as they can. They become thoughtful, proud, and committed to contribute to the lobbying to make their voices heard. Also, some realize reasons for their marginalization. Here are a few words said on the last day of the GLP by Qamar, a 60-year old female panelist who comes from a village. “To those who did not educate us, may God forgive you.”