The Moroccan Times – Intellectually Yours posted an interview with a Legacy alum who is active in helping to change civil society in Libya. The interview gives insights into the challenges for young people to promote change in society, especially those who are advocating for women’s rights as well as human rights.
RABAT, Morocco- When the Arab spring sparked, no one was expecting that such a powerful and rich country as Libya will be the next on the list to the gallows. After almost three years of ups and downs, Libya, the North African country that was once considered the paradise land for thousands of migrants looking for a better life, turned into, unfortunately, a land where the mere Political stability became the first and foremost usher any Libyan citizen dreams of with the unveiling of 2015 .
Mr.Youssef Gherradi interviewed on behalf of The Moroccan Times an active society member in Libya to put a spotlight on what is going on right now in the said country. Our interviewee, whom we picked for her the name Fatema as for security reasons she is giving TMT this interview on the condition of anonymity, has shown a great interest in what is going now in the Arab world and told The Moroccan times that “education is what the Arab world truly needs to move forward.”
The Moroccan Times: Could you please introduce yourself?
Fatema: “Allow me first to put a spotlight on my background and where I came from. My name is Fatema. I am a Libyan ruble girl from Benghazi. I was born in a conservative family , but that fact did not stop me from speaking up and fighting for my rights, let alone being an active civil society member advocating for women and human rights.”
The Moroccan Times: Recently, from what we see in the news, we have the impression that Libya has reached its lowest nadir. Could you please describe to our readers, as an on the ground eyewitness, the current situation?
Fatema: “It is very difficult to describe the situation in detail as it could take me ages to shed some light on what is happening. To keep it short, I’ll just say that everyone is fighting for his own interests. I can’t see them fighting for Libya. They are destroying what Gaddafi left, and I mean by left what wasn’t destroyed after he gave up the reins of power.
“The country is going through a civil war; every tribe wants to take revenge from the other one. Everyone wants to control the oil. We have two governments: one in the east and the other one in the west. They work at the same time. There is a war against the Islamic Militias in Benghazi and Derna [a port city in eastern Libya] but we didn’t see any results so far. The army is basically out of weapons, which make them so weak, ergo the situation has atrophied.
“It has been three months now since this war kicked in Benghazi and all we can see is the bloodshed from two sides, let alone the many victims from civilians. There are many who lost their houses. To illustrate, 90% of Benghazi’s citizens are internally displaced people.
“In a nutshell, there is only few people who were/are fighting for Libya and, unfortunately, even those very few ones were targeted or will be the next targets of militias.
Alumni Salman Haji credits his NSLI-Y experience as the ultimate factor in making his decision to pursue international affairs and the U.S. Foreign Service. As a Legacy participant, four years ago completing NSLI-Y program, Haji was selected into the prestigious Pickering Fellowship program which seeks to support Americans from diverse backgrounds throughout their graduate school and ensures their entry into the Foreign Service.
Haji also currently interns at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), Office of English Language Programs where he focuses in the EUR (Europe and Eurasia) and NEA (Near East – Middle East and North Africa) regions. Haji offers encouragement to fellow alumni:
“I’ve learned on the job that who you now know will later impact your life in a very crucial way – either in your career, personal or social lives. Success in the Foreign Service does not come easily without networking with different groups of people, and it is vital to make these connections early in the career. I advise other NSLI-Y alumni to look out for opportunities. Don’t say that something is impossible. My dream as a NSLI-Y participant was to join the Foreign Service, to see the world, to learn languages, and to make a change. I was intimidated by joining the State Department and I didn’t think I would be able to pass the required tests and other criteria in order to become a Foreign Service Officer. But I applied to the Pickering Fellowship which has given me a future. As a NSLI-Y participant, you already have unique characteristics. Embody those, connect with others, look out for more opportunities to follow your dreams, and you will eventually get to where you want to be.” Read More
1. How did participating in Legacy’s program impact your life?
Participating in Legacy’s program changed my life. It opened me to a new world I did not know existed, which – and I realized this long after the program – was meant for me. The program groomed me into who I wanted to be : a successful change maker. It gave me the chance to build a long lasting network and professional relationships as well as the confidence I needed to trust myself. It taught me how to turn my desire to change the world into a concrete impact-full project. But even more that that it helped me discover my calling and this is priceless.
2. It has been two years since you participated in the Legislative Fellows Program, what can you see now about yourself, the program, or your country that you didn’t see before participating? Read More
“My vision is to empower young girls through education. I believe women should have complete access to basic education as a fundamental human right. Libya desperately needs more educated women to fight against GBV issues [gender-based violence] and for women’s right issues. In short, I believe women must be educated to know what to say and what to fight for, because they are simply the best advocates for their rights.” – Amna Salak
Upon returning to Libya after participating in the Legislative Fellows Program, Amna started the “iRead Campaign”. Her project brought her passion for young women’s education to the most underserved population in her country: Refugees living in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDB) camps outside of Benghazi (where Amna lives).
Due to her previous work with the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugee agency (UNHCR) agency, she was aware that many of the children living in these camps, and particularly the young girls, either did not have access to education or were not allowed to attend school. Her campaign, began with a door-to-door interview of every family in the three IDB camps around Benghazi (a total of 299 interviews). A team of ten volunteers participated asking each family about their children’s attendance in school and any obstacles they face. Read More
Inspired by the garden that she visited in the United States , Tari began the Sensory Garden Project at her school, Bandung School for the Vision-Impaired. It is the first sensory garden built in a school and has become a trusted model for other special schools throughout Indonesia. Tari was a participant in the Indonesia-US Youth Leadership program and despite her disability, participated fully in the program activities and the follow on project requirements at her own school.
She said “During the host family phase in the U.S., my host parent took me to the community garden. She was introducing me to many different plants by reading the information label on each plant while letting me to touch and smell it. I never visited a garden with such labels before, and it was not only nice but also made me excited to learn more about plants and the environment. I believe my friends and all school members would feel the same, how can we preserve the environment if we even don’t have an access to get to know it? So, providing a garden with braille labels at our school could be the first step to introduce the environment.” Read More
“When Khalid, Maryam and I returned to Baghdad after Legacy’s Iraqi Youth Leadership Program, (IYLEP) in US, we decided to start a project that helps poor people in Baghdad. We looked for students in our schools that have the same interests. We were really surprised to get support from a lot of the students.”
Written by Abdulaziz Alazzawi in collaboration with Khalid Waleed Aboud and Maryam Ali GhazalaThe IYLEP program is supported by the US Embassy Baghdad and administered by Meridian International in partnership with Legacy International.
They continue describing their project: “We collected used clothes and contributions from neighbors, friends and family in a 2-week period. We chose a neighborhood where poverty is really high. In order to distribute the goods, we have to get permission of police and be escorted.
Unfortunately distribution points where many people gather to receive charity are often the targets of terrorist groups. The police were not helpful but one of our cousins recommended we approach the Iraqi army. The army wants to build up and encourage more civic action. So we made a search for the areas in Baghdad that are under control of the army. We found really poor families living in houses made of mud. Read More
Sindhu Chidambaram is a high school senior in the Global Ecology Magnet Program at Poolesville High School in Poolesville, MD. Last summer she traveled to Indonesia as a participant in Legacy’s Indonesia-US Youth Leadership Exchange program where she visited several environmental projects, like saving sea turtles and tree reforestation projects, and eroded beach restoration.
As a result of her training in the program and during the Global Youth Village environmental workshops, she was able to develop the Oyster Reef Ball Project which directly impacted 165 people, and reached more than 4,000 indirectly. Read More
How does a young Moroccan girl explore technology and develop her interest in the STEM field?
Upon the suggestion of her teacher, she applied to attend the TechGirls program administered by Legacy International.
TechGirls, a U.S. Department of State initiative, is an international exchange program designed to empower young girls to pursue careers in the science and technology sectors.
“I applied for the program and was chosen to participate. Trust me—it was the most wonderful decision I ever made.” Read More
Somaia started her fellowship with a strong desire to learn about the legislative process, and this has driven her to get the most out of her early experiences. Two days into her placement at the office of Congressman Tom Petri (WI – 6), Somaia El Sayed Metwalli of Egypt is getting deeply involved in the workings of her office. She is one of the new arrived Legislative Fellows Program delegates currently placed with Fellowship Mentors in Washington, D.C.
Somaia is passionate about improving political education in Egypt, and her experiences have already sparked ideas on how to achieve this goal. Read more…
Somaia has been a great addition to the office, and they’ve been eager to help her learn about how to ensure effective leadership, says Kevin James, Legislative Assistant to Petri. Kevin and the office are eager to have her on their team because they value her knowledge on Egypt. They have asked her to present a briefing to the office on current issues in Egypt, and feels that this will be a great contribution to the office.