Emerging Young Leaders for Peace

May 22, 2017
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On May 3, the Alliance for Peacebuilding hosted a brownbag lunch discussion with ten emerging young leaders from the U.S. Department of State’s Emerging Young Leaders Award and Exchange Program, organized by Legacy International.

The U.S. Department of State’s Emerging Young Leaders Award and Exchange Program recognizes youth around the world for their efforts to create positive social change in challenging environments, and is granted to ten outstanding young leaders (ages 18-24) from across the globe.

These remarkable young people traveled in the United States for a two week intensive exchange program specially tailored to strengthen their knowledge, abilities, and networks. Legacy International provided them with training and exposure to professionals working in similar fields, which includes peacebuilding. Here are some of their stories:

Promoting Ethnic Harmony in Afghanistan

Gharsanay IbnulAmeen is an organizer of the Afghan Girls Leadership Program, which provides annual leadership workshops for girls across Afghanistan. She is co-founder of the Global Youth Development Initiative where students are connected to professional and peer mentors from across the world for academic advising and international exposure. She is also an active member of Ethnic Harmony, which  implements projects around Afghanistan seeking to promote ethnic harmony. She is an ambassador in the Everywhere Everywoman Coalition and helped develop the first ever-international Treaty on Violence Against Women. She is currently a law student at the American University in Afghanistan.


Combating Hate Speech in Malta

Naomi Bugre has been involved in activism since the age of 16 and is a co-founder of the campaign ”Redefining Us,” which engages students, teachers, and Maltese citizens on hate speech and the dangers of division within Maltese society. She has played an advisory role, not only for individuals and organizations, but also for the government and politicians in Malta and across Europe, on issues including minority and human rights, and the rights of children and refugees. Naomi is dedicated to using her own experiences of racial discrimination to empower and educate others while also taking the time to listen to stories and experiences of victims and provide a platform for their stories. Naomi was recently elected as the Vice President of the Maltese National Youth Council where she strives to represent and empower young people.


Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization in Tajikistan

Jahongir Olimov is from the Rasht Valley in Tajikistan, where he works to counter violent extremism and radicalization by implementing projects in the most vulnerable regions of the country. In 2015 and 2016, Jahongir led projects aimed at preventing young people from joining extremist and terrorist groups. As a coordinator at the NGO “Marifatnoki,” he and his team implement regional projects aimed at empowering women, promoting volunteerism and leadership, encouraging environmental protection, countering violent extremism, improving civic education, human rights and the business climate in the region. He initiated a network of youth-based Marfiatnoki groups in Rasht Valley, which play an important role in community decision-making and dispute resolution.


Preventing Gender-based Violence in Sri Lanka

Chamathya Fernando is passionate about working on gender based violence causes. She coordinates the “Stop the Violence” Campaign of Sri Lanka Girls Guide Association (SLGGA) and is a National Trainer for “Voices Against Violence,” an educational curriculum co-developed by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and UN Women. Since 2013, she and her team have reached around 10,000 girls and boys across the country through various activities, focusing on youth issues including education, skills development, reproductive health and rights, and combating racial discrimination and extremism. She helped lead a campaign against violent extremism through which a “Peace Hotline” was established and they organized interfaith dialogues around the country.


Increasing Political Engagement in Algeria

Amel Mohandi was born in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, a Berber city known for its strong political and social engagement. At age 18, she founded a volunteer group to help children suffering from cancer, and her devotion toward protecting and promoting children rights led her to join the Algerian Network for the Defense of Children’s Rights. In 2014 she created “VISION TV,” a web TV program that engages youth for social, political, cultural and economic participation, and in 2017 she launched a project called “Young People in Communication.” Amel’s project became an effective communication platform for Algerian NGOs to promote their projects and activities on the web. The main objective of this platform was to increase citizen participation and to facilitate the social integration of youth from different social, economic and academic backgrounds.


Promoting Peace in Pakistan Through Arts, Sports, Dialogue, and Music

Raj Kumar works to counter violent extremist voices and promote pluralism in Pakistan; through one of his initiatives, “Days of Interreligious Youth Action – Promoting Peace through Arts, Sports, Dialogue and Music,” Raj and his 10-person team brought together 500 community members of different ethnic and religious backgrounds to paint and share messages of peace through art and Sufi music, as well as teach teamwork and sportsmanship lessons. Raj recognizes the power of traditional and social media to influence views; he wrote a piece titled “My Journey as a Pakistani Hindu” that was picked up by a leading English-language newspaper in Pakistan, Express Tribune. He also has spoken about the role of youth in addressing violent extremism on a prominent Pakistani TV network, Dawn News, and has been profiled by a prominent Facebook page, “Humans of Pakistan.”


Intercultural Peacebuilding in Belgium

Noé Petitjean founded “Our Shared Difference” (OSD), an intercultural and interfaith project gathering youth from different cultural backgrounds to address the challenges of refugee integration in Europe. OSD brings together young people from different cultural, religious and economic backgrounds to visit religious sites and learn about each other’s faiths. One of Noé’s sources of inspiration for the OSD project was the UNESCO conference “Reinventing Peace.” Noé strongly believes that diversity is a true force for positive change. He has spread this vision by bringing teenagers to the European Parliament and showing them the important and powerful role diversity plays in Europe. He has dedicated himself to gathering people from different cultures and making diversity a powerful source of creativity and positive change for the world.


Creative Arts and Youth Engagement in Vietnam

Lưu Thị Quyên uses social media and creative arts to engage Vietnamese youth on key issues. In May 2015, together with a group of comic artists, she founded and led a campaign named “Todocabi,” which means “challenge your knowledge.” The project raised awareness among Vietnamese youth about the government budgeting process and called for greater transparency, was one of the most successful youth-led advocacy campaigns in Vietnam. Since April 2014, Lưu Thị Quyên’s project team “Little Frog” has produced videos on a variety of social issues, such as eating dog meat, protecting LGBT rights, the education system, and enhancing women’s rights.  Quyên’s videos have earned over a million views and 15,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/echphuho/videos. This video series represents the voice of the new generation in Vietnam.


Dancing for Peace in Jerusalem

At a young age, Hanna Tams set himself apart as a leader in youth engagement when in 2012 he established the Douban Dance Company in Jerusalem. Through his dance company, Hanna serves Palestinian youth who are at significantly higher risk of destructive behaviors than their peers in Israel and the West Bank. Young Palestinians involved in Hanna’s dance company have transformed their lives by countering the predominant pressures of violence, drug-use, and school dropout rates among at-risk Palestinian youth. Today, more than 600 young Palestinians participate in Hanna’s dance program. Through dance he has opened the Palestinian public to the prospect of credible social alternatives to violence, and he also has changed attitudes of parents towards the value of arts education for their children.


Using Technology to Make Communities Safer in Peru

Moises Salazar was born in the province of Callao, where the provincial government has declared a state of emergency more than five times due to high levels of crime. Moises is using technology to address the security concerns of his community; without formal training, he created a mobile app called “Reach,” which allows users to report criminal activity in real-time, alerting other app users in the area and drawing immediate assistance in case of emergencies. “Reach” has become a network based on geolocation that connect citizens and authorities in the fight against crime to make their communities safer. In 2016, he was invited to United Kingdom by the Duke of York to present his app in St. James Palace. Moises continues with his work against organized crime and tries to promote campaigns against human trafficking, discrimination, and domestic violence against women.