Ten remarkable young people from around the world will be recognized on Wednesday by the State Department for their efforts to create constructive social change at the inaugural Global Emerging Young Leaders Award.
The 2016 honorees include a Palestinian student who started a debate club to promote peaceful exchange of opinions; a woman from Malta who is dedicated to grassroots educational projects; a Honduras gunshot victim who founded a skateboarding club for at-risk youth; an interfaith organizer from France; a Kenyan who promotes reconciliation among ethnic clans; a young professional from Afghanistan who is devoted to civil society engagement; a women’s empowerment advocate from Tunisia; a Georgian who is committed to peace-building through evolving technologies; a youth development advocate from Myanmar who helped organize the country’s National Youth Congress; and an Indonesian student who seeks to advance community dialogue in a place that experienced 10 years of inter-religious violence.
After the ceremony, the 10 recipients will visit the United States to attend through early May an intensive program to explore leadership practices in the nonprofit, government and private sectors, and to broaden their networks of resources and support.
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan will present the awards.
Here are the 10 global leaders chosen by the State Department:
Basel Almadhoun, 20, from the Palestinian territories, currently a business student at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.
Almadhoun was a U.S. exchange student in high school. Upon returning home to Gaza, he began a debate club to give teens a forum to express their opinions. He says he has seen people change their way of thinking by participating in debates. He has also brought TEDx talks to Gaza.
Hillary Briffa, from Malta, currently pursuing a Ph.D in London
Briffa is Malta's youth ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), where she helped lead a campaign against violent extremism at an OSCE human rights conference last year. She has focused on youth issues ranging from access to health care and education, to countering online hate speech, and led after-school courses on conflict resolution.
Jessel Recinos Fernandez, from Honduras
Fernandez was raised in Cofradía, a suburb of San Pedro Sula, a Honduran city that has been called “the murder capital of the world.” Soon after joining a gang, he was shot. Calling that a turning point, he founded Skate Brothers, a club that offers various activities for at-risk youth to help them avoid gangs.
Samuel Grzybowski, from France, founded Coexister youth interfaith organization
Grzybowski founded Coexister, France’s leading youth interfaith organization, while he was still in high school. The group has 19 chapters in France, Belgium and Switzerland, and its members' use of the hashtag #NousSommesUnis (We are united) was the most retweeted French hashtag after the terror attacks on Paris last November.
Asha Hassan, from Kenya
Hassan, an ethnic Somali, has developed youth-led groups spearheading dialogue and reconciliation among ethnic clans in her home region of Kenya. She teaches children the value of life and warns them of the dangers of joining extremist groups and being used to cause conflict in a community.
Ahmad Shakib Mohsanyar, from Afghanistan
Mohsanyar founded social media campaign "Afghanistan Needs You" in effort of counter idea that youth need to leave Afghanistan for a better life. Campaign received 26,500 "likes" in its first seven months. He works as a job placement specialist and serves as president of a professional network that promotes universal education, entrepreneurship and civil society engagement.
Ahlem Nasraoui, from Tunisia
Nasraoui uses entrepreneurship to empower women and youth in Tunisia. She started a Peace Mediators program to confront terrorism and extremism that coaches youngsters in leadership, arts and mediation, as well as initiated several startup training events for women. She has been a speaker at TEDx events in Tunisia.
Nino Nanitashvili, 23, from Georgia, head of communications at the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University
Nanitashvili uses evolving technologies to promote peacebuilding and development. She founded the Google Developer Group, Georgia's first technology-oriented professional community, and leads the Women Techmakers Community in Tbilisi, an initiative supported by Google. She is a mentor for tech startups and social entrepreneurs in Georgia, and has spoken about technology-driven civic initiatives at Google headquarters, the parliament of Georgia, and TEDxYouth Tbilisi.
Thinzar Shunlei Yi, from Myanmar, coordinator of Burma’s National Youth Congress and the National Youth Network
Thinzar Shunlei Yi focuses on youth development and dialogue and helped organize the ASEAN Youth Forum. She held a highly successful U.N. International Youth Day event that reached thousands of young people and raised awareness on mental health issues. She is an active member of the Ambassador’s Youth Council at U.S. Embassy Rangoon, which advises the ambassador on youth perspectives and needs in Burma.
Zulfirman Rahyantel, from Indonesia, currently a student at Patimmura University in Ambon
Rahyantel has organized discussions on the issues of grief, resentment and hatred in Ambon, a city that has experienced 10 years of inter-religious violence. He was a facilitator for the Indonesia Interfaith Youth Pilgrimage project in which youth from across the country gathered at a camp to learn about each other’s religion and to visit each other’s places of worship.