Photo by Yasmine Hassan Photo by Yasmine Hassan

Moving the Needle for Safer Egyptian Roads

Wed, Sep. 27, 2017
Inspired by the loving memory of Nada, a beautiful 19 year-old university student, to put an end to the fast growing prevalence of traffic related injuries and mortality in Egypt, The NADA Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads has become one of the most active on the ground initiatives and advocacy groups, on a mission to expose the magnitude of road safety crisis and to bring it higher up on the agenda of different stakeholders.

Nada’s friends and family launched the initiative less than a year after she had passed away in a tragic car accident, turning a sad loss into a motive for a good cause. “We took a hard decision to deal with it from a positive side, to keep her smiling and keep her as happy as she had always been,” says Sara Amr Ezzat, Nada’s childhood friend and one of the first volunteers in the foundation.

First launched as a Facebook initiative in 2013, the Nada campaign has since witnessed a rapid growth, becoming today a fully established foundation that represents Egypt in international road safety conferences, talks to all stakeholders on different platforms and brings the authorities under the spotlight for constructive discussions.

“We started by shedding light on the issue and showing that behind the numbers there is a face and a family that has completely changed,” says Nehad Shelbaya, co-founder of The Nada Foundation. “We began to highlight to the citizens, the public and the government that the situation is dreadful, and to attract the attention to a catastrophe that needs to be dealt with,” she adds, describing the foundation’s early debut.

Adopting an entirely scientific based approach that relies on the expertise of public health doctors and road safety engineers, and seeking innovative community based intervention tailored accurately for every stakeholder, the foundation has already managed to generate a vibrant buzz introducing a momentum for road safety awareness.

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Photo by Yasmine Hassan

Doing it differently, at grass-root level

The Nada campaign took the streets for the first time in March 2015, where volunteers went out, simulating car accidents while running in the streets. Evolving from a virtual i nitiative to an active on the ground contributor, the foundation organized a run fun in Zamalek in collaboration with the Cairo Runners.

The very light and well studied slogans, such as “Hayatak aham mn messegatak” (Your life is more important than your messages) and “La tatasel hata tasel,” (Do not call till you arrive) have left quite a vibe and a long-lasting impact in the streets.

The next step was extending the arms of the campaign to penetrate the universities and bring attention to the youth.

“The youth are the ones we lose the most in road crashes … They are the ones who most need to be rescued,” Shelbaya says. “Therefore, when they are with us, they can change themselves and be catalysts of change.”

The Nada foundation has recently collaborated with the British University in Egypt, organizing an event in the memory of BUE students who lost their lives in car accidents.

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Photo by Yasmine Hassan

During the event, Zap Tharwat, famous Rap singer, told the students a story of a personal motorcycle accident. He ended up taking an oath to do things right while driving; and the attendees repeated after him.

Although the experts are the ones who sit on the round table and talk policies and recommendations, the youth make up an essential component in the foundation’s activities, by working on the ground in the campaigns, conveying their perspective for influential slogans and approaches, and acting as the foundation’s ambassadors at different universities, such as Cairo University, AUC, BUE, Assiut University, Fayoum University, as well as in the streets.

The foundation also encourages young members to deliver the speeches at universities’ panels, to escape “the atmosphere of a lecture or a class,” Ezzat states, pointing out that the volunteers are trained and accustomed to talking to people and making them understand the cause, especially “stubborn young drivers.”

“We tell them we are just like you. At the beginning, we did not care about anything. We were living our lives, until this moment turned everything 360 degrees,” Ezzat says, referring to the tragedy of Nada’s accident. “We tell them you do not have to wait until you feel the pain and then try to change,” she adds.

One of the major contributions of the foundation is also reaching out for survivors of car accidents and victims’ families, offering them support and seeking their input in achieving the foundation’ outmost goals.

Recalling the foundation’s event on the occasion of The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR), Ezzat told Egypt Today, “The most memorable moment for the whole team was a speech by the father of a victim who passed away in a terrible accident; we were astonished by his emotional stability … He admitted it was his mistake that he gave his son the car although he had not practiced very well; and he advised everyone in the event against it.”

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Photo by Yasmine Hassan

Joint effort and advocacy for further impact

Seeking to eventually accomplish a unified platform that would stop the bleeding, the campaign is also collaborating with other initiatives and private sector companies concerned with road safety, such as The Rotary Club, the Global Biking Initiative (GBI), the Vehicles Club, Cairo Scooters, Vodafone, Pepsico, Samex, Uber and Axa.

“Sayef Safely” (Spend the summer safely), launched by the end of July, is the foundation’s most recent campaign, organized in collaboration with Uber and Axa insurance company, to raise awareness about road hazards. The campaign is mostly active in the North Coast, aiming to minimize the chances of collisions and to educate the public about the best ways to respond to accidents.

Apart from the public campaigns, the Nada foundation has also adopted a major advocacy role, calling for round table discussions with stakeholders, sitting with policy makers, bringing back expertise from international conferences and putting government officials under the spotlight to recognize “their role” in the process, which, Shelbaya states, is not to merely raise awareness or organize campaigns but rather to take action.

The latest round table discussion, Shelbaya recalls, tackled the new technologies entering the roads and communication system, such as fully automotive vehicles and smart buses. It brought together experts and government officials from different sectors to unfold a number of relevant issues, such as which of these technologies will be beneficial in terms of safety, the government’s role in preventing the entrance of technologies that do not fit with the required safety requirements and whether the roads are being prepared to accommodate these technologies.

Citizen in power: enforcing informal safety laws

Although the Nada campaign has already succeeded in moving the needle in terms of awareness and advocacy for the road safety crisis, the foundation is aiming at a higher goal.

“Up till today, with all of the daily deaths we see, the issue is still not a priority on the agenda; and there is no political will to make it a priority,” Shelbaya says. “We call for a political will to make it a national issue, and for the foundation of an independent council for road safety, equipped with resources and authority.”

The process starts with identifying who is allowed to enter the system and whether they were seriously tested and can actually drive, Shelbaya explains, as well as the conditions of the car they will take on the road and whether it fits with the basic standards of safety, the infrastructure and the standards of the road and a “just” implementation of safety laws.

“All of this is both a formula of success and of death,” she states, stressing the need for a system and an accountable owner of the issue.

The recommended council should include representatives from all the departments responsible of road safety, such as the ministries of interior and health, the traffic unit, the ambulances system, the NGOs, the private sector and experts, Shelbaya says. “All of these have to research and assess the problem and come up with a solution and implement it … they shall become responsible and accountable.”

Meanwhile, the foundation’s ongoing mission is to empower the citizens. “Until there is a formal law to be implemented, we’d implement an informal law,” Shelbaya tells Egypt Today.

This mission is being realized through the foundation’s joint campaign with Vodafone, adopting the slogan, “Your safety is your responsibility … Speak up.”

The campaign aims to make of road safety hazards a stigma by the public and the surroundings, encouraging citizens to speak up and object if they see a friend, uber driver or even their parents committing any act of distracted driving.

“Changing human behavior is a long term mechanism; however, one of the most effective behavior change approaches is creating stigma around a certain negative behavior and showing it as an incorrect and unacceptable social norm,” Shelbaya says.





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