Congratulations to everyone and may your dedication be an inspiration to all.
Winners of the YouthActionNet® Fellowship 2009
Project: Chanan Development Association (CDA) Age: 24 Site:
Muhammad Shahzad founded the Chanan Development Association (CDA) to empower youth, particularly young women, to combat violence, discrimination, and social injustice. Among its activities, CDA uses the arts - theatre, photography, and films - to raise public awareness of human rights issues. Since 2006, CDA has staged more than 500 plays that explore issues ranging from early forced marriage to gender violence. The Chanan Media Group examines human rights issues through the production of documentary films aired on local television. Proceeds from its film and theatre events help support CDAs activities. In 2008, CDA launched a campaign aimed at reducing religious extremism through promoting interactive dialogues among different communities, religions, and sects. CDA also trains youth throughout Pakistan in the use of participatory media techniques.
Naadiya Moosajee co-founded SAWomEng (South African Women in Engineering), a student run body at the University of Cape Town, to promote the study of engineering among female students. SAWomEng seeks to "ignite the engineering flame" among young women and promote their retention in engineering. SAWomEng addresses the changing needs of South Africa, while identifying the brightest female minds and arming them with the crucial soft skills needed to succeed in the engineering industry. "Women are a minority globally in engineering and face various challenges," says Naadiya, who believes that women bring a different skill set and ideas to the industry. To encourage and support young women, SAWomEng promotes engineering at high schools, particularly within disadvantaged and rural communities; provides mentoring to women engineering students; and implements projects serving local communities. One recent SAWomEng project focused on upgrading informal settlements in South Africa, using sustainable development and green engineering techniques. In 2008, SAWomEng reached 75 female students, ages 18 to 25.
"To change the way a community deals with violence, one has to begin with students and schools," says Nick Martin, who founded DCPEACE to equip teachers, youth, school administrators, and families in Washington, DC with the skills and knowledge to be peacebuilders in their communities. Motivating Nick to take action were some startling statistics. In 2007, 21% of DC students were found to carry a weapon, 43% had experienced a physical fight, and 14% did not go to school because they did not feel safe. DCPEACE, a program of the U.S. Association for the University for Peace (UPEACE/US), pursues a holistic approach, including teacher training, curriculum development, the hosting of theatre and peacebuilding workshops, and the integration of PeaceRooms at schools. PeaceRooms is a program that equips students with digital literacy skills, enabling them to explore themes related to social justice and global citizenship, while engaging in online dialogue with students from other countries. Currently, DCPEACE works with over 250 low-income students in pre-kindergarten through grade five.
Sarah Gogel is co-founder and deputy director of Global Potential (GP), a program that empowers low-income urban youth with the skills and perspective to create positive change in their lives, neighborhoods, and the global community. Following a 16-week social entrepreneurship and leadership training program held at high schools and community centers, GP participants volunteer for six weeks in a rural village in a developing country, where at least half have cultural roots. Upon their return home, the youth develop a social enterprise in their neighborhood over nine months. Says Sarah, "It is extremely rare that youth from underserved communities are provided with the opportunity to contribute to the greater good by putting their problems into context and discovering solutions. Without such opportunities, which transform youth into agents of change, the cycles of poverty, violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and lack of training and education, are hard to break." To date, 50 GP participants - many of them recent immigrants to the U.S. or refugees - have led projects in New York City and the Dominican Republic, with Nicaragua and Haiti soon to follow. Said one GP participant: "Youth like us don't normally help out in other countries. [With GP] challenges become opportunities."