Impact Stories from Youth Engagement Policy Area
Fellow speaks about climate action at UN COP 26
Fellow(s): Rim Assaad
This month, 2018 fellow Rim Assaad was invited to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, United Kingdom, speaking on two panels about climate action in Lebanon. The annual summit convened world leaders, businesses and citizens for twelve days of talks themed on the Paris Agreement goals and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Rim is the co-founder of RISE2030, a community-led initiative managed by Sustain The World Org and Sustainable Empowerment for Youth International. Through their education and training programs – which include solar installation, literacy training and support for women farmers –RISE2030 aims to mobilize women and youth to create sustainable communities and contribute to Lebanon’s energy transition. In 2021, RISE2030 distributed 46,000 meals and created over 2,000 jobs.
Last year, RISE2030 won a United Nations Global Climate Action Award in the “Women for Results” category. After delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rim represented RISE2030 at COP 26 as a featured guest and panelist, sharing her work addressing challenges in Lebanon. In her panel, Advancing Gender Equity in Climate Action, Rim spoke about Lebanon’s current energy crisis that was exacerbated by COVID-19 and the 2020 Beirut explosion. She said that RISE2030 aims to be a part of the solution, working to train and mobilize all-women teams to address power grid issues. “Creating all-women teams is a bold statement,” Rim said. “Being a woman in Lebanon has never been harder, yet women are proving to be leaders of change.”
Report Date...: 11/8/21
In USG Alumni Talk fellow discusses STEM education for girls
Fellow(s): Elena Selezneva
Last week, 2016 fellow Elena Selezneva was invited by American Spaces in Uzbekistan Tashkent to discuss STEM programs for girls and her TechWomen experience. The conversation was part of the American Space USG Alumni Talks series that spotlights alumnae from exchange programs, inviting them to share their expertise and exchange program experience.
Elena and 2016 fellow Saida Yusupova are the founders of Tech4Impact, an initiative that nurtures IT, innovation, green tech and women’s entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan and Central Asia. Their recent project, Accelerating Women’s Climate Change Tech Startups in Uzbekistan, trains and supports women in the Karakalpakstan region of Uzbekistan, helping them establish businesses and initiatives that address the social and economic effects of climate change. Elena also brought the Technovation Challenge to Uzbekistan in 2016, and currently serves as their regional ambassador. Elena began her talk with an overview of TechWomen, emphasizing that the program not only improved her skills but also led to long-lasting friendships and professional collaborations that empower women and girls in STEM. After sharing data on the underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM in Uzbekistan, Elena amplified programs working to close the gap, including Tech4Impact’s UNISAT nanosatellite program that will train 150 girls to design, program, assemble and launch nanosatellites. “You may hear that STEM is not for girls, but it’s not true. There are many brilliant women and girls working in ICT, in IT, in engineering and in science,” she said.
Report Date...: 11/1/21
Fellow speaks about career and TechWomen on podcast
Fellow(s): Salma Bekkouche
This week 2018 fellow Salma Bekkouche was a featured guest on the Gusra podcast, a show that invites thought leaders in the MENA region to speak about their career journeys, experiences and passions. Salma is a recruiter and blogger whose platform, Salma Share, aims to empower Algerian youth through offering best practices and career advice. Her website and YouTube channel offer tips on applying to international programs abroad and invites guest bloggers to share their international education experiences.
In the podcast interview, Salma spoke about the value of volunteering with local clubs and organizations, sharing that her experience with Algeria’s TechWomen/TechGirls Club helped her transition from IT to HR. She reflected on her TechWomen mentorship at Twitter, where she learned the importance of personal branding on social media: “I had the chance to connect with experts from around the world in one place,” she said.
Report Date...: 11/1/21
At Girls STEAM Camp fellow shares advice and inspiration
Fellow(s): Houda Chakiri
2012 fellow Houda Chakiri spoke to over 100 secondary school students in Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire and the United States at last month’s WiSci Morocco Girls STEAM Camp, a two-week virtual program that offered girls interactive STEM workshops, leadership training and mentorship opportunities. Houda, an assistant professor of computer science, was joined by other international women leaders for the Women In STEAM panel, sharing their diverse experiences as women in leadership.
During the panel, the moderator encouraged the panelists to remember their experiences when they were the same age as the girls. Houda offered her perspective, sharing the barriers she faced as a girl and emphasizing that girls continue to face challenges when pursuing STEM fields. She reminded the girls, however, that setbacks can serve as fuel for achievement: “Don’t be afraid of failure – it can be a real push to strive for success,” she said.
Report Date...: 10/25/21
Fellow discusses gender equality and education with Dalai Lama
Fellow(s): Faten Khalfallah
2015 fellow Faten Khalfallah was invited to speak with the Dalai Lama in an event hosted by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) that brought together changemakers committed to gender equality and education for all. Faten is the founder of First Skills Club, a STEM education initiative that introduces Tunisia’s youth to technologies such as mobile apps, robotics, electronics, design and 3D printing. She is also a USIP Generation Change fellow, selected to participate in their 2016 cohort of dedicated peacebuilders addressing leading challenges. During the program, Faten was trained in conflict management, leadership development and more.
During the event, Faten was invited to share a brief story with the Dalai Lama based on her experience as an educator and mentor. She spoke about a 13 year-old student she mentored during her early years of teaching, helping him gain access to an IT lab when he was unable to complete his assignments at home. “He is now 24 years old, and he messages me to share thoughts or ideas with me. From teacher to pupil relation, it became a friendship,” Faten said. She then had an opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama one question, inviting him to share a time when he felt compassion from one of his mentors. The Dalai Lama told Faten about a teacher who saw his potential and always held him to a higher standard. “It’s important that teachers always give hope to students,” he said. “It’s important that they encourage them, and give them great potential.”
Report Date...: 10/18/21
On podcast fellow shares her work inspiring girls in aviation
Fellow(s): Refilwe Ledwaba
Country: South Africa
2019 fellow Refilwe Ledwaba was featured on the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls podcast, speaking about her barrier-breaking aviation career and her commitment to empowering girls with STEM skills. The podcast, based on the bestselling series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, explores the lives of inspiring women and encourages its young listeners to pursue their curiosity and interests.
Refilwe, South Africa’s first black female helicopter pilot, is the founder of the Girls Fly Programme in Africa (GFPA) Foundation, a non-profit organization empowering young women to go into STEM. Through their programs, GPFA provides girls access to aviation and space workshops, STEM programs and mentorship opportunities. In the episode, Refilwe speaks about growing up in apartheid South Africa without any role models in aviation that looked like her. On her first-ever flight, Refilwe saw that one of the pilots was a woman. “That day changed the course of my life forever,” she said. “It ignited my curiosity about the industry.” She joined the airline as a cabin attendant, working her way up to eventually become a helicopter, plane and fixed-wing pilot and leader in aviation. “I’ve always done things that are against the norm,” she said. “And that makes me a rebel girl.”
Report Date...: 10/18/21
Fellow featured as a gender champion at UNDP conference
Fellow(s): Zulaika Shamshieva
2019 fellow Zulaika Shamshieva was spotlighted as a gender champion at a recent conference on gender and STEM hosted by UNDP Kyrgyzstan and UNDP Belarus. The event invited policy makers, gender specialists and UNDP experts to share their practices on promoting women in STEM fields.
Zulaika, a high school chemistry teacher, was named a role model for women in Kyrgyzstan and invited to attend the online event. UNDP also shared her story on their social media channels, highlighting her work and commitment to empowering the next generation of STEM leaders. When asked about her advice for other women in STEM, Zulaika said, “Believe in yourself. Be bold. Your first step is half of your success. After that, you will start enjoying your journey in STEM.” At the conference, she had an opportunity to hear best practices from leaders in STEM, gaining valuable takeaways for her work as an educator. “The conference was inspiring, and I learned about projects that I can do here for my village students,” she said.
Report Date...: 10/11/21
Fellow speaks about using technology for impact
Fellow(s): Reema Diab
2019 fellow Reema Diab was a featured speaker this week at an event hosted by the Rotary Club of Amman Citadel. With over 1.2 million members globally, Rotary Clubs work to promote peace, grow local economies and support education. In its efforts to spotlight local leaders making an impact in economic development, The Rotary Club of Amman invited Reema to speak about Galaxy Organisation, the initiative she founded that empowers women and youth with STEM skills. Recently, Galaxy worked with 70 women at a local refugee camp for an Artificial Intelligence Training Project, training the women to make their own products using innovative tools.
During her talk, Reema spoke about the importance of harnessing the power of AI, IoT and block chains to not just improve business, but also positively impact local communities. She argued that everyone deserves equal access to technology, sharing Galaxy’s mission to bridge the gap between technology and underserved communities to create jobs and provide a better future to women and youth.
Report Date...: 10/11/21
With U.S. Embassy funding fellow brings STEM to 1000 youth
Fellow(s): Sabine El Kahi
Last month, 2014 fellow Sabine El Kahi successfully completed the Young Makers Program, an initiative that brings maker culture to youth ages 15-18 through hands-on and interactive STEM programming. The program was funded by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy Beirut and hosted at The American Corners in Baakline and Zahle, as well as 10 public and private schools in the country.
Sabine implemented the Young Makers Program through the pandemic, overcoming challenges to bring both in-person and virtual lessons in open source technologies, 3D printing and innovation to over 1,000 young people. The program was administered through The Makers Hub, the makerspace Sabine founded that serves youth ages seven to 18. At the conclusion of the program, students had created over 90 projects from the STEM skills they learned. “I am very proud of the impact on youth, and very hopeful for the future. We have great talent among Lebanese youth, and when they are equipped with the right skills and tools they will innovate and make, even in the most challenging times and conditions,” said Sabine.
Report Date...: 10/4/21
Chargé D’Affaires invites fellows to discuss exchange programs
Fellow(s): Mouna Edrissi, Imane Nassif, Fadwa Bennani
Cohort: 2012, 2018, 2020-2021
This week, fellows Mouna Edrissi (2012) Imane Nassif (2018) and Fadwa Bennani (2020-2021) were invited by Chargé D’Affaires David Greene to speak about their exchange experience and share ideas on bringing international exchange opportunites to more Moroccan women and youth.
At a lunch in Tangiers, the fellows, joined by a Fulbright program alumna, discussed their exchange program experiences and how the TechWomen program has impacted their career trajectories. Fadwa spoke about her TechWomen social impact project, sharing about a recent workshop that spread awareness on wastewater issues for 52 girls in Igri, a village in the High Atlas Mountains. “We talked about how to promote U.S exchange programs in other regions of Morocco which are still not considerably represented, and how to create synergies between different programs’ alumni to maximize the positive impact on disadvantaged Moroccan communities,” said Fadwa.
The fellows spoke about TechWomen and shared their ideas on bringing education opportunities to people in Morocco.
At American Corners and schools, the Young Makers Program provided STEM activities to over 1,000 young people during the pandemic
Report Date...: 10/4/21