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Tunisian Student Learns IT to Chase Her Dreams

Mariam wants to teach information technology as a university professor back home in Tunisia. In order for her to achieve her dream, she came to the United States to study on the Tunisia Undergraduate Scholarship Program. What she found in New York was beyond her expectations.

“I experienced lots of things that make me feel glad and proud, but the best one so far is my internship. I am doing my Internship in a nonprofit organization called ArtsRoc where I teach high school students IT,” said Mariam, who is studying Information Technology at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.

Mariam wants to teach information technology as a university professor back home in Tunisia. In order for her to achieve her dream, she came to the United States to study on the Tunisia Undergraduate Scholarship Program. What she found in New York was beyond her expectations.

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Mariam with a student in her internship classroom.

At Your Service: Libraries and the Political Crisis in Ukraine

Following the Euromaidan protests and subsequent change in government, Ukrainians are closely monitoring the government’s promises to curb corruption, promote transparency, and improve services. IREX Bibliomist partner the Ukrainian Library Association (ULA) issued a statement in early 2014 recommending that libraries extend their hours to meet the public's need for access to uncensored, up to date information during the ongoing political crisis. Whilst maintaining its political neutrality, the ULA also requested members and librarians to continue to support “democratic values, to promote access to information and to withstand censorship.” 

Following the Euromaidan protests and subsequent change in government, Ukrainians are closely monitoring the government’s promises to curb corruption, promote transparency, and improve services. The Ukrainian Library Association (ULA) issued a statement in early 2014 recommending that libraries extend their hours to meet the public's need for access to uncensored, up to date information during the ongoing political crisis.

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File photo: Youth of the Ukrainian Library Association

Tunisian Helps Bridge Gap Between Energy and Water

Ben Nejma had been working in the local community for six months for an environmental NGO promoting green building in Tunisia, but needed further guidance. So he applied to a Community Solutions Program (CSP) fellowship in 2013 and was teamed up with Vermont Workers’ Center in Burlington, Vt., to design his project helping low-income families realize their dreams. After four months in Vermont, Ben Nejma used his newfound skills to implement quality environmental management systems in his hometown in Tunisia.

Last year, a poor family of five with a disabled family member was homeless in a small village in Tunisia. It was too expensive for the family to afford a house and the materials were difficult to obtain. Even if they could raise money to build the house, the upkeep from conventional building materials wouldn’t be sustainable in the hot, dry region. That’s how Ahmed Ben Nejma found them.

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Ahmed Ben Nejma works with the local community in Tunisia using eco-construction as a sustainable alternative to combat the lack of water and resources in the region.

Building Peace Education Near and Far

For Aya Mana’a, a Palestinian-Israeli woman, growing up amid conflict at the community, country and regional level was commonplace. What was unpredictable was how her background and experience would be essential to improving the social climate at a conflict-ridden and underperforming high school in Beltsville, Maryland through the Community Solutions Program (CSP).

For Aya Mana’a, a Palestinian-Israeli woman, growing up amid conflict at the community, country and regional level was commonplace. What was unpredictable was how her background and experience would be essential to improving the social climate at a conflict-ridden and underperforming high school in Beltsville, Maryland.

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CSP leader Aya Mana'a brings her conflict resolution expertise from Israel to assist peace education in a Maryland high school.

Increasing Breast Cancer Awareness in Rural Pakistan

“In my community, most women are uneducated and have no idea about [breast cancer],” said Jasmin. “Many women are dying because of this.”

While in the US through the Global UGRAD-Pakistan program, Jasmin learned about breast cancer awareness advocacy and took the initiative to put the skills she learned to good use back in her native region of Kurram Agency. Upon her return home to Pakistan, Jasmin took on the challenge of changing the many stereotypes about cancer in her region. 

“In my community, most women are uneducated and have no idea about [breast cancer],” said Jasmin. “Many women are dying because of this.”

While in the US through the Global UGRAD-Pakistan program, Jasmin learned about breast cancer awareness advocacy and took the initiative to put the skills she learned to good use back in her native region of Kurram Agency.

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Jasmin helps raise awareness of breast cancer in her native region of Kurram Agency, Pakistan.

Syrian Refugee Woman Values Youth Debate & Dialogue

“I still consider Munathara [the youth debates] as a very important project,” Rana Yousef says, several months after her participation in a live debate event on the issue of foreign military intervention in Syria. IREX, in cooperation with the Munathara Initiative and the Global Political Trends Center of Istanbul Kültür University, organized this debate as the final portion of a project aimed at training Syria youth on skills for constructive debating. 

“I still consider Munathara [the youth debates] as a very important project,” Rana Yousef says, several months after her participation in a live debate event on the issue of foreign military intervention in Syria. IREX, in cooperation with the Munathara Initiative and the Global Political Trends Center of Istanbul Kültür University, organized this debate as the final portion of a project aimed at training Syria youth on skills for constructive debating.

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Syrian youth learn debate skills

Georgian Journalism Student Focuses on Gender Equality Issues

Gender stereotypes plague everyday life in Georgia, forcing youth to grapple with the issue of gender equality in the country. Through media and journalism trainings, students now better understand the challenges facing Georgian women, and are equipped to share their stories. 

Fifteen year-old Tamta Kakhaberidze was inspired to highlight concerns about gender issues after one of her classmates married underage. Following training through IREX’s Youth Media Literacy project at Georgian newspaper Batumelebi, Tamta began interviewing her female classmates to learn what it is like to be a girl in a Georgian public school. 

Gender stereotypes plague everyday life in Georgia, forcing youth to grapple with the issue of gender equality in the country. Through media and journalism trainings, students now better understand the challenges facing Georgian women, and are equipped to share their stories.

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Georgian journalism student conducts interview on gender equality.

Engaging Women in Bhutan’s New Democracy

In Bhutan, women occupy only 4% of the leadership roles at the local government level, and only 10 of Bhutan’s 72 Parliament members are women, according to a report from Helvetas-Bhutan. In one rural, agrarian community, a village library is working to change that. The Aurbay Sher Shong Payzothkhang (ASSP) Library in Ura started a program with support from Beyond Access to increase women’s participation in the public sphere. In just under a year, over 500 women participated in programs to increase their public engagement and women have joined the library's management committee for the first time. 

In Bhutan, women occupy only 4% of the leadership roles at the local government level, and only 10 of Bhutan’s 72 Parliament members are women, according to a report from Helvetas-Bhutan. In one rural, agrarian community, a village library is working to change that.

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Bhutan Library Women's Listening Group

Combatting Violence Against Women in Egypt

IREX's Justice & Dignity for the Middle East & North Africa program is working with the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) on a project to support organizations in Egypt working to combat violence against women. ICAN produced this short profile of Bassma, one of the participating organizations. Its mission: to end discrimination against women and stand up against the forces that allow it to continue. Composed entirely of unpaid volunteers, Bassma bravely confronts the issue by taking to the streets of Cairo. Their two grassroots initiatives involve working one-on-one with community members in an attempt to change the way men think about and perceive women.

IREX is working with the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) on a project to support organizations in Egypt working to combat violence against women. ICAN produced this short profile of Bassma, one of the participating organizations.

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Photo courtesy of Bassma

Inspiring Change: One Liberian Woman’s Story Inspiring Us

Thanks to the support of WONGOSOL, encouragement from IREX's USAID-funded Civil Society and Media Leadership Program in Liberia (CSML), Munah Kieh Kelly went from feeling incompetent to leading training workshops and managing grants. In honor of International Women’s Day and its theme Inspiring Change, we are pleased to share Munah’s story as her inspiration to change inspires us in our work around the world.

When Munah Kieh Kelly was first hired at the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), she was a volunteer office assistant, receiving only a small monthly stipend to clean the office and sort incoming mail. A mother of five young children and in the process of leaving a marriage that left her feeling incompetent and silenced, Munah was reserved, quiet, and burdened with concerns that her opportunities to excel professionally were limited because of her lack of knowledge and skills.

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Munah (right) at the Women's NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL)
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