Diversity and Inclusion/­Arab Digital Expression

Ranwa Yehia

Risktakers Fellowship - Ranwa-Yehia

In 2005, Ranwa Yehia founded ADEF which has grown to impact thousands of youth across Arab countries. In 2009, my first son was diagnosed with autism. When he became of age to join our summer camps, ADEF was prepared for his inclusion. To quote disability activist Mia Mingus “Understanding disability and ableism is the work of every revolutionary, activist and organizer—of every human being.” Witnessing the problematic claims of inclusion in Egypt and the Arab region, it became my mission to work on impactful inclusion that listens, respects, empowers neurodiverse youth and recognizes their talents.

What will you be working on during the fellowship?

The CAT program currently being undertaken with 6 neurodiverse teenagers will produce a fully vetted, up to date curriculum on digital expression. The program aims to explore both digital and analogue art and technology tools to find what each individual is passionate about, then build their skills to give them the space to be productive. This group will then join our digital expression summer camps in August 2023 where we implement an integration model where those teens join other neurotypical teens in a two-week life-changing experience.

To what future do you aspire?

This Inclusion  and Diversity Unit has six main goals:

  1. Integrate neurodiverse-friendly design into our digital expression curricula
  2. Design a training program for ADEF’s trainers on working with neurodiverse youth that can be integrated into any of our ADEF programs

  3. Develop a plan to make ADEF’s headquarters neurodiverse-friendly and seek funds to implement that plan.

  4. Train autistic teenagers and adults as part of our digital expression program in ADEF spaces and projects.

  5. Implement neurodiverse integration training with ADEF’s seven partners in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan and Asyut.

  6. Build and advocate for mainstreaming of neurodiverse children in community organizations and informal education organizations and companies by sharing the knowledge we have developed.

What does being a risktaker mean to you?

A risktaker is someone who endeavors to build innovative programs that will have life changing impact on its target group. A risktaker is someone who is aware of the magnitude of responsibility accompanying such an endeavor and thus builds systems to allow for continuous growth and development of their program with a strong component based on learning and listening and giving space for the people with whom we work and redesigning programs based on such findings.
A risktaker is someone who is willing to work and move outside an established comfort zone and remold the programs they have created because they envision a future where thousands of people can be impacted. One such example is attempting to build a business model that can eventually allow for such a program to be mainstreamed into society.
A risktaker is someone who stands for the values they preach and holds the fort even in situations of crises that may force someone to make compromises.
A risktaker is critical and open to being criticized and to listen to messages, however unclear, that are being expressed.

The interview

Introducing Ranwa Yehia: Empowering Arab Youth Through ADEF

Meet Ranwa Yehia, the co-founder of the Arab Digital Expression Foundation (ADEF) and a Risktaker fellow. Since its establishment in 2005, ADEF has significantly impacted thousands of Arab youth. ADEF’s mission is to create educational and learning environments, support free culture and build knowledge tools in Arabic. Their goal is to foster youth communities through experiential learning, promote the creative utilisation of technology, and encourage initiatives that generate free and open critical Arabic knowledge.

ADEF supports its community, comprising artists and tech enthusiasts, by developing technological tools that facilitate knowledge production. Grants, technical assistance, mentorship, equipment, and space are provided to meet the community’s expressed needs.

“Integration is more than mere words and empty promises; it is a steadfast commitment.”

The organisation has expanded its reach across Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Palestine, and Berlin, collaborating with youth and young professionals from at least 13 Arab countries. It is recognised as a cultural space that upholds free cultural values and advocates for a more progressive, accessible, and modern educational system.

Inclusivity lies at the heart of ADEF’s work. Recognising the importance of accommodating neurodiverse youth, the organisation established an Inclusion and Diversity Unit in 2018. Ranwa Yehia, driven by her personal experience of having a son with autism, aims to foster impactful inclusion that listens, respects, empowers, and acknowledges the talents of neurodiverse individuals.

In this video interview, Ranwa shares her journey and sheds light on the work of ADEF. She discusses her plans for the Inclusion and Diversity Unit in the coming years, utilising the resources provided by the Risktakers Fellowship. Additionally, she introduces the CAT program, an initiative run by ADEF. Join us to gain insights into the inspiring work of Ranwa Yehia and ADEF as they continue to empower Arab youth and foster a diverse cultural sector where freedom of expression thrives through art and technology.