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Sustainability Report 2016 – Societal Life
In March 2017, Egypt’s population reached more than 94 Million. With a population growth rate above 2% the government has difficulties to provide infrastructures that satisfies basic human needs, such as access to adequate education and health services. SEKEM strives to foster a healthy development for Egypt’s people since its establishment in 1977, by supporting its employees in various additional ways or by strengthening an exchange between cultures and knowledge.
Starting with the development of communities among SEKEMs contracted farmers via visits of international partners right through to empowering women, SEKEM aims to contribute to the progress of an advanced societal life, also in 2016.
“The SEKEM-model is unique and the people who are working in SEKEM seem to be quite happy.“
Different high-profile guests visited SEKEM in 2016 in order to get to know the holistic initiative for sustainable development but also to contribute to a better understanding, in regards to political topics as well as to arts and culture.
The German Ambassador, Julius Georg Luy, and the Head of Development Cooperation at the German Embassy, Sebastian Lesch spent one day at the SEKEM Farm. They are among others responsible for the developmental cooperation with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) which supports SEKEM in promoting gender equality or in different agricultural projects, for instance.
Also the Austrian Ambassador, Dr. Georg Stillfried visited SEKEM on the occasion of the yearly Spring Festival. His colleague, the Austrian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Andrä Rupprechter followed him some weeks later. During a two-day working visit to Cairo, the SEKEM Initiative was presented to Rupprechter as “impressive company model” in the field of sustainable development. Akin to the motivation of the high-profile visits, also SEKEMs partners were driven to visit the initiative.
Common Understanding: Partner Visits in 2016
“SEKEM seems like an oasis in the Egyptian political, social and economic reality. It is like a lighthouse of a new time.”
Wilfried Steen, Oikocredit-Member
SEKEMs longstanding financial supporter, the cooperative society Oikocredit, did the first of a series of planned study tours to Egypt. Nine Oikocredit members out of five countries spent one week in SEKEM in order to get to know the partner more closely, but also to promote the project afterwards in it’s own network. How this is already bearing fruits, showed another Oikocredit activist who had been a guest in SEKEM the year before. Eberhard Proissl, voluntary member of the German Oikocredit Support Association Baden-Württemberg, presented his impressions of the Egyptian initiative at various events in his home country.
In this context, he also emphasised on the meaning of the reinvented SEKEM News section and the general public relations work: “I read the SEKEM News with great interest and use the information for lectures and Facebook posts. They give an impressive picture of SEKEMs dynamic development”, Eberhard Proissl says. “I especially like the category ‘People in SEKEM’, which illustrates how the co-workers implement SEKEMs vision in their daily work.”
Constantly Developing Communication
As this redesigned communication approach showed great success, SEKEM continued in 2016 to develop its online appearance by relaunching the SEKEM Website. People can now directly read the SEKEM News connected to SEKEMs different activity fields – exclusively on the main online presence www.sekem.com.
Of course also SEKEM co-workers themselves presented current activities on various international events. For instance in Berlin, SEKEM attended the “Conference on the Future of Learning – Global Goals Curriculum”, where the question “how can we integrate the Goals for Sustainable Development into the education curriculums?” was discussed. The 17 Sustainability Goals of the United Nations were then again addressed in Berlin on the event “Sustainable Fair Economic Activity – Entrepreneurship in the Age of the Agenda 2030”.
“To reach the goals of social innovation and thereby, serve a particular community’s needs, we have to realize a specific society’s genius by going back to its roots, also enabling it to emerge by addressing its burning issues and drawing on its particular gifts.”
Prof. Dr. Ronnie Lessem, TRANS4M
Also in 2016, 10 internal and 16 external events and conferences had been an important part in SEKEM to foster a stronger societal development. At the beginning of the year, a Social Innovation Day addressed the needs of the community and society in new, unconventional ways. Additionally, many other topics have been discussed during events in SEKEM, such as alternative energies, education, entrepreneurship or medical topics.
From A Community of “I’s” to a Community of “We”
As different the discussed topics were, as different were the many different great efforts with which the different European SEKEM Friends Associations supported SEKEM continuously in 2016. For example, the SEKEM Friends Germany organized a very successful SEKEM Day in Stuttgart under the slogan „creating out of nothingness“. SEKEM Austria contributed to an event on Education for Sustainable Development and shows great commitment to supporting refugees in the spirit of the SEKEM vision. The SEKEM Friends Association Netherlands put their focus in 2016 to the Heliopolis University by supporting the Core Program or a cooperation with the Dutch Zyud University. And the Scandinavian SEKEM Friends organized a trip for Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish through Scandinavian countries that included among others a visit at the Biodynamic Association and the Business for Peace Summit in Oslo.
Gender Equality Still In Focus
“I am not concerned about losing my job when I have a child. SEKEM supports young mothers with different facilities”, says Walaa Mohamed, co-worker at SEKEMs company NatureTex. The empowerment of women that had been officially formulated in 2015 in SEKEMs Gender Strategy for a Balanced Society, had also been focused in 2016. Several activities in order to raise awareness took place in all SEKEM institutions. Besides the so-called Social Meetings in the companies, there have been trainings with a special emphasis on gender equality for SEKEM co-workers.
“I can see how SEKEM believes in empowering women economically and socially to create a secure future, which I really wish my children to be born in.”
The share of females remained almost the same compared to last year at 22% with a total of 295 female employees. Due to local traditions of women staying at home after marriage we are very happy with almost 25% women but we are not satisfied. Atos Pharma has with 49 (34%) and Naturetex with 77 (36%) women among the workforce the highest share of females within SEKEM group of companies. In total 19 women work in managerial positions, which represent a total share of females in managerial positions of 14% – a slight improvement compared to last year.
As started in 2015, another very successful Girls’ Day had been organized at the SEKEM School in cooperation with the Vocational Training Center. As gender equality is not only about empowering women, but in the same time encouraging boys to take over professions that are mainly carried out by women, in 2016 also male SEKEM students were engaged in the Girls’ Day’s activities. Accordingly, boys made internships in SEKEMs Kindergarten and the School for Children with Special Needs.
And later on in 2016, SEKEM School and Heliopolis University integrated Gender Equality Sessions to their curriculum that shall foster the fact that the topic becomes a natural part in the development of girls and boys in SEKEM as well as in Egypt.
End of 2016, all SEKEM companies employed 1,341 people, 61 more than last year. In total, SEKEM has 11 senior managers (no change), 124 middle managers (+4), 475 specialists (+75) and 574 (+137) laborers. SEKEM exercised great effort to reduce its number of daily labors from 410 in 2015 to 160 in 2016. Daily workers are not part of the formal workforce and hence do not get access to the same benefits. An important step is to help daily workers to get legal papers and transition them into a long-term relationship with one of SEKEMs subsidiaries. Our aim is to reduce daily workers to zero at least for the industrial operations.