Where are they now? Catching up with AYV Scholar Heba Elshatoury from Egypt

Who: Heba Elshatoury
From: Cairo, Egypt
How you were involved with AYV: Trained as a student with my educator and friend, Hassan Shehawy, from FIRST LEGO League, who was organising an AYV program in Egypt for the first time
Issue you care about: Gender inequality

“I believe that as long as women are mistreated – unless women and men have equal rights and there is mutual respect – a country will never advance or move a step forward. I want to inspire women to speak up and not accept society’s pressure on them. I want to empower women to fight for their rights no matter how hard it gets.”

– Heba Elshatoury, AYV Scholar and first-year student at The American University in Cairo

“Art is a global language,” says Heba Elshatoury, a youth artist and activist from Cairo, “and by making media pieces I use this global language to reach a wide audience.”

She is both forward-thinking and mindful of the past, as reflected in her media piece Heritage, a 2013 AYV Awards finalist. Heba won an AYV Scholarship to pursue her education at The American University in Cairo, where she looks for creative ways to change minds and circumstances around gender inequality.

What was your first media making experience?

It started with the training in 2011. AYV was the first creative artistic program I ever joined. I didn’t know back then how to use Photoshop or Premiere, and the idea of expressing myself about issues in my community by creating digital media was so inspiring and exciting. I have never gotten the chance to express myself in such a way as AYV has given me the opportunity to.

How is media making a part of your life now?

If I want to raise awareness towards a certain issue or cause, the first thing that comes to my mind is to create a poster or video and post it on social media platforms to reach as many people as possible. In my first semester in college I took a course that is called Creative Expression of Resistance. I loved this course and felt that it was very close to what I do through AYV.

The course was about expressing resistance towards a cause, government, idea, or people by using creative ways, not rebellion or violence. We analysed a movie called Pan’s Labyrinth and works by Pablo Picasso while discussing the Spanish Civil War. Also we analysed songs from the Civil Rights movement, works of cartoonist Naji Al-Ali regarding Palestinian resistance, and finally satirist Bassem Youssef and the graffiti art regarding the 25th of January Revolution in Egypt. In my opinion all of these media artworks have a great effect. These are the things that stay with people and never die because they are creative and different.

My final creative project in this course was a poster showing that society enforces stereotypes on girls and my message was that women should fight and never accept these stereotypes or change what they believe in.

What’s the last movie, book, or website that inspired you?

The book “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. This story is very inspirational. It taught me that I should never give up and that I must be persistent. It taught me that connecting with nature leads to the journey of self-exploration which is such a magnificent experience.

What cool new app are you using?

“Pocket.” This application gives me the platform to save any article that seems interesting. Before I knew of this app I used to lose track of a lot of articles that I wanted to read.

What issue or cause do you care about and why?

Gender inequality. This problem means a lot to me as it affects me personally and many other women around the world. It takes a lot of energy and hard work to overcome the pressure that society puts on women. Sadly, the majority in Egypt don’t want to admit that there is a problem in our society and that we must stop this gender inequality to move forward with the country.

What are your professional or life goals?

I am forever grateful to my educator Hassan Shehawy because he has changed my life. He is the one who opened my eyes to this beautiful world, which I had been seeing with very wide eyes and a closed mind. I wish that one day I can inspire and motivate others to discover what they like and go on their journey of changing this world to a better place.

“AYV has made me believe I have got a role to play in this life. I have a mission to accomplish; I’m here on this planet on purpose and I’m not going to leave this life just like I boarded it!”