This week we kicked off the 2018 Emerging Young Leaders program. For the past two years the State Department has chosen to honor ten young people from around the world for the amazing work that they have done in their home countries. This is more than just an award: it is accompanied by an opportunity to gain additional skills and tools for continued success. These remarkable young people have traveled to the United States for an intensive exchange program specially tailored to strengthen their knowledge, personal abilities, and networks.

They work that they have committed to at such a young age is enough to make any adult question what they have been able to accomplish in their own lives.

  • Dania from Pakistan, just eighteen, has established an organization called ‘Fun to Learn’ where she, along with a team of volunteers conduct workshops for children in underprivileged schools.
  • Sara, from Iraq is a social activist working with many organizations. She has also a co-founder of Kokar, a Kirkuk based volunteer group promoting peace and Community engagement.
  • Zina, is a member of the Yazidi ethnic group living in Lithuania. She became committed to documenting the story of her people after personally witnessing the genocide of Yazidi girls by ISIS through photojournalism.
  • Diovio is a human rights activist from Jakarta Indonesia. Diovio currently leads the Sandya Institute, a non-governmental organization focusing on peacebuilding, countering violent extremism, and human rights advocacy.
  • Jose, is an Afro Panamanian leader who promotes equal access to education through his platform Ayundiga, which provides free STEM lessons through entertaining videos.
  • Nancy from Norway is an author, human rights activist, public speaker, and columnist who started the #Shameless movement which aims to tackle negative social control and the consequences of growing up in a shame-honor culture.  
  • Isa from South Africa advocates for equal access to education and gender rights. She is dedicated to the fight against rape culture and other forms of gender based violence.
  • Ece from Turkey is the founder of the social enterprise Sosyalben Academy and Counseling. SosyalBen originated in Istanbul and now involves 350 volunteers in total from its 10 domestic and 5 foreign representative offices.
  • Tanzil actively works towards youth and community development and women’s rights in Bangladesh, while simultaneously personally challenging traditional gender norms in her country. She is the President of Volunteer for Bangladesh, Chittagong – the largest platform for youth volunteerism in Bangladesh.
  • And Firuz from Tajikisatan is president of the debate club Face-to-Face and the english debate club coordinator at the Law Clinic in Russian Tajik Slavonic University of Dushanbe. Through these platforms he discussed themes such as violent extremism, domestic violence, and economic expansion among the poorest populations in the country

The #EYLeaders start off in Washington, DC where they attend workshops headed and/or organized by Legacy staff. Covering a wide range of topics from Transformative Leadership to How to tell the story of your work, the leaders are given a lot of encouragement and access to resources that will help to propel the work that they have been doing in their own countries. In a week’s time they are off to Austin, Texas where they will engage in the city’s burgeoning tech scene. The leader have practiced how to effectively talk about the work that they do and will have countless opportunities to practice this over the next few days as they introduce themselves to everyone that they have the pleasure of meeting. Their days are filled with official state department meetings and round tables with city officials.

On Wednesday May 2nd, the leaders received their prestigious awards from the State Department in a beautiful ceremony attended by everyone from local dignitaries to school groups.  The leaders are very excited and a bit overwhelmed.

“I feel so excited about today and the rest of the program. I have already learned so much information in just two days of training. I am hoping to leave with good leadership skills, capabilities and strength to help other young people in my country and the others as well. I am very thankful to all Legacy staff, ” said Zina. Fellow leader Sara shares in her sentiment, “I’d love to see what more this program unlocks because so far it has been a wonderful journey!”

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The Emerging Young Leaders Award is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and organized by Legacy International