Celebrating Women, Celebrating Civic Engagement: A message from Queen Rania of Jordan

I found this at The New Service, and have to say, I think Queen Rania is amazing!

March 10, 2010 — Colleen Hammelman, Innovations in Civic Participation

Guest post by Talloires Network Intern Alissa Brower. Cross-posted from the Talloires Network blog.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, this article places a spotlight on one female leader who has had a great deal of influence on civic engagement in the Middle East. Recently, Jordan’s Queen Rania Al-Abdullah delivered a speech to students at the American University in Cairo about their impact in society and the difference they can make in the larger community. Her objective was to encourage students to realize the kind of difference they can make in society and take advantage of attending a university that provides support for civic engagement and community service.

Her majesty started her speech with a story that symbolizes where civic engagement and understanding can start. The story itself can be considered a celebration of women making a difference in the world, as it involves a young girl who wanted to change the living conditions of a less fortunate community. The story begins with Raghda visiting an elderly community outside of central Cairo. Raghda met a woman who invited the girl into her home. What Raghda saw when she stepped inside was nothing like what she had expected. Raghda, accustomed to a very comfortable lifestyle, could not believe a family of eight was living in a one-room home with no floor and no ceiling. When she looked up at what should have been the ceiling, the girl saw a blue sky. At this moment, Raghda realized that something must be done to improve these unsatisfactory living conditions. She felt a responsibility to help these families in need. After having this experience, Raghda El Ebrashi, who is also an AUC alumna, founded Alashanek Ya Balady, an organization that helps families rise above poverty.

(Coincidentally, Queen Rania is not the only one who recognizes Raghda’s dedication to civic engagement. Last year, the Talloires Network awarded Alashanek Ya Balady third place for the MacJannet Prize 2009. To learn more about the program, click here.)

The story showed students of AUC that they have the capability to help those in need; they simply must have the will to put those capabilities to use. And, being students at an institute of higher education provides them the opportunity to implement that will. In her speech, her majesty proclaimed, “Our universities must be incubators of this social blue sky thinking.” The American University in Cairo has embraced this duty, promoting community among its students and allowing “social practice [to take] its place alongside academic theory.” AUC has taken steps toward fostering greater social recognition and development among its students, and the Queen wants other universities to do the same.

Queen Rania addressed the importance of service-learning in the education system. Service-based learning initiatives are gaining more ground in universities worldwide. The Corporation for National and Community Service of the United States, a country that has had one of the longest histories in implementing this initiative, defines service-learning as “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” Institutes of higher education have adopted this approach of a new system of learning, creating comprehensive curricula that engage both academics and service alike.

AUC has also contributed to this trend. Specifically, the university offers a number of opportunities to engage in service, including community-based academic courses, aiming to make “community service an integral part of the students learning experience.” Queen Rania encouraged the AUC to continue to embrace service-learning “so students can balance their quest for a career with their call to help others” and serve as a model for other universities in the Middle East.

Queen Rania has become a major proponent of citizens engaging in community service efforts in their communities. She has used her title and influence to spread this message throughout the Middle East, encouraging citizens to share “a sense of duty and pride in promoting the common good.” Because of her international efforts to enhance the role of citizenship, Queen Rania certainly is one of many women worth celebrating on today’s holiday.

To learn more about International Women’s Day, please visit the website.

The Talloires Network is an international association of institutions committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education. Tufts University’s Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and Innovations in Civic Participation serve as the Network’s secretariat.

For all that we say democracy is awesome (and it is, of course) there is something very refreshing about a well-educated, articulate leader who works for decades to make her country a better place!  If you have to have a royal family in charge, I’d rank the Jordanian Hashemites highly.

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Life in the West Bank

I can’t be in Jordan without facing the reality of what is happening one the other side of the Jordan/Israel border. If only CNN and their pals would pay attention!!! Please read this quick posting (clipped below) , then watch “Who profits from Israeli occupation” (also below or at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L32Nama7ad8). I heard about both from Juan Cole (Uof Michigan Middle East expert-guy and great blogger) at http://www.juancole.com/. Get the word out!!
clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

On August 3, my husband Mohammed Khatib, and my little brother Abdullah, were taken from their beds in our West Bank village of Bil’in at 3 AM by the Israeli military. My husband is a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee, which has been leading our village’s nonviolent campaign against Israel’s construction of a Wall and a settlement on our land. For nearly five years, every Friday we have been joined by supporters from Israel and around the world as we attempt to march to our land on the other side of the Wall. According to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the settlement amounts to a war crime, and in 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled the Wall illegal.

Despite this, the construction of the Wall and settlements continued, and we are treated as criminals in our quest for justice. On top of tens of arrests, hundreds of protesters from Bil’in have been injured and one has been killed by the Israeli military.
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The video:

Fuel from sun and CO2?!!

Looks like “biomimic” fuel is a seriously innovative invention.
clipped from cleantechnica.com


Cambridge-based Joule Biotechnologies has come out of the dark today to announce a radical technology designed to mimic photosynthesis using bio-engineered micro-organisms to make ethanol fuel from carbon dioxide and sunlight.
Because of the abundance of these raw materials, Joule Biotechnologies should be able to make ethanol economically, sustainably and at stable prices.

Prices would be competitive with fossil fuels at $50 a barrel.

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Solar Blimp!

I soooo wanna take a ride! Who remembers the Hindenburg anyway?
clipped from cleantechnica.com

Solar Blimp to Fly from NYC to Paris, Rests on Land or Water

Solar Airship

Perhaps the only thing cooler than being powered by lightweight photovoltaic cells, this airship is also designed to rest on land or water.

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Wind Power in the US

This very cool map (which I don’t think will work once on the blog) displays how wind power has grown in the US in the last decade. Click on it to see it in action!
clipped from cleantechnica.com

map of installed wind capacity in the United States
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The Extraordinaries: Micro-Volunteering

I have heard about this org through my minimal participation in socialactions.com (which I’ve mentioned here before). Tho I don’t text so much, this sounds great for those folks who do!
clipped from www.npr.org

A hand holding an iPhone
NPR.org, July 1, 2009 · Got five minutes? Got a cell phone? Want to do good?
The Extraordinaries can help. It’s one of a number of newly hatched social-media enterprises that champion speedy cooperation. Here is the 30-second elevator pitch: The Extraordinaries delivers microvolunteer opportunities to mobile phones that can be done on-demand and on-the-spot.
Shazzam! Charity meets brevity. Crowdsourcing for the common good. Turning ADD into AID.
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Donate to Social Actions

Support the $20.09 in 2009 Social Actions Campaign.

Go ahead–be a catalyst for meaningful change!

(There is a cool widget that donates directly, but WordPress won’t allow it…sigh…or any of the other SA cool tools, like a search bar of actions on every blog page.  We just need to develop a tool that isn’t corruptable according to WordPress.com)