2015 Action Project – Cleopatra to Coretta


Afnan Khalil, Hadir Helal, Judson Moore, Leah Moschella, Michelle Matus

The Challenge

Western mainstream media outlets have a bias for telling sensational stories that focus on negative events and often fail to cover success stories coming out of Egypt. The 24-hour news cycle has gained wide criticism from American leaders for their Twitter-fed approach for making everything appear to be a crisis while neglecting the stories of entrepreneurial innovative, cultural, and burgeoning businesses. Simultaneously, many American news agencies fail to cover events that can be characterized as generally positive, instead preferring to create a sense of dread and fear among their  viewers. The voices of journalists in Egypt rarely penetrate the Western mainstream media with success stories.

Additionally, these fear-inducing media outlets disproportionately cover negative experiences of women, or  leave women out of the discourse altogether. With vast majorities of males in leadership positions and acting  as decision makers in professional media outlets, the experiences of women are left to be defined by the  males writing, editing, and producing the stories. While women are actively and positively participating in civic  life, starting businesses, and leading cultural innovations both in Egypt and the United States, these stories  are seldom told to the average consumer of media.

In summary, consumers of the media, both in the United States and Egypt, are relegated to an incomplete,  sensationalist, and male-dominated perspective. These same consumers, however, rely on the media to  formulate their global opinions and actions as civically-engaged citizens.

Project Overview

Inspired by powerful Egyptian and American female leaders, Cleopatra to Coretta is an international exchange  program supporting the dialogue of female global journalists to build relationships and promote hero narratives  of women making an impact in their community.

Cleopatra valued knowledge and female intellect above all else. Fascinated with literature and languages, she  rose to power as the last of the great pharaohs in Egypt. Coretta Scott King, an American activist, writer, and  champion of the civil rights movement, is best known as the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Cleopatra and  Coretta, who were influential and powerful women, are rarely credited. These two leaders are a mere sampling  of the inspiring women that are blazing trails and challenging social norms each day.

Cleopatra to Coretta aims to bridge the gap between the East and the West, to identify and mentor emerging  women leaders in the field of journalism, and to create new networks of engagement for aspiring female  professionals. The project seeks to fund three female Egyptian journalists and three female American  journalists who will participate in a person to person exchange program.

The participants will live and work together in both the United States and Egypt, participating in job shadowing,  classes with university students, and guided discussions with industry professionals. Participants in Cleopatra  to Coretta will develop media projects to profile strong female leaders in a variety of professional fields.

Project Goal

Three specific and measurable goals have been identified through this project:

  • Women’s Empowerment: We seek to foster women’s professional development that creates a community of peer support and promote underrepresented voices.
  • Positive Narratives in the Media: We seek to create shareable and accessible information online utilizing existing journalist networks and social media while highlighting success narratives of women.
  • East-West Dialogue through peer-to-peer relationships: We seek to build lasting relationships and understanding through international exchange and develop opportunities for mentorship for  emerging leaders.

Population Served

Female journalists in both Egypt and the United States will be the main population served in this project.  By leveraging each participant’s network, Cleopatra to Coretta will potentially reach and impact millions of  viewers in the United States and Egypt as well as the greater Western and MENA region.

Project Milestones

Phase 1: Three journalists from Egypt and three journalists from the United States will be selected to  participate in the program.

Phase 2: Participants will be engaged in a facilitated online (email, chat, forum, Skype) conversation with  each other about their communities and their work.

Phase 3: Participants will meet for a 3-day team building retreat in Egypt.

Phase 4: Participants will travel to Egypt and the United States to meet with counterparts in their home  communities to collaborate on stories for publication.

Phase 5: Participants will create 18 special interest stories about the United States and Egypt that will be  published across 3 news outlets in each country. One project report will be published in website  format on CleopatratoCoretta.org, which will contains all 18 stories.

Expected Outcome

Each journalist will be responsible for creating content in their specific field of media about their experience.  Participating journalists will use the platform of their professional expertise and their own media networks to  develop and promote success stories and highlight cultural activities, particularly those involving and led by  women.

Three journalists from two countries will immerse themselves in each others’ communities to engage in job  shadowing, professional development and East-West dialogue.

By the end of the 6-month project, Egyptian and American journalists will have formed new relationships,  and will have collaborated on stories which focus on generally positive events in each others’ communities.  The American journalists will publish stories about activities in the Egyptian communities, while the Egyptian  journalists will publish stories about activities in the American communities.

How the Project Contributes to the Foundation Mission

The Shafik Gabr Foundation believes that each citizen must play a role in building bridges to peace and  improvement of people’s lives. Cleopatra to Coretta facilitates an opportunity for citizens from both the  United States and Egypt to directly build bridges by working together, forming personal and professional  relationships, and proactively sharing their intercultural experiences through the media. Tantamount to the  Shafik Gabr Foundation’s mission, Cleopatra to Coretta is committed to fostering a voice for women to share  their experiences with a global platform, based primarily in first-hand cross-cultural experiences. Furthermore,  the outcomes of this action project can reach a broader global audience through sharable, digital media and  the hero-narratives that are developed.

Learn more at CleopatraToCoretta.org