Where We Work: Middle East and North Africa
Across the MENA region - from North Africa and Egypt to the Gulf and the Levant - Peace First supports innovative young leaders to find and implement solutions to social problems. We’ve supported young people to develop sustainable agriculture solutions, create peer-to-peer mental health support systems and advocate for the rights and inclusion of immigrants. Our community of young social innovators is spread across the region and represents nearly every country, and we support their transformative changemaking work through special programs such as our regional Accelerator in Dubai in Fall 2019 and region-wide Hackathon in Summer 2020.
According to UNICEF, 49 percent of girls in Sudan are missing out on secondary education. As of 2019, a total of three million children have been left out of Sudan’s education system, half of them being girls. The enrollment rate for girls in secondary school is lower than that of boys, and there is also a significant gap in literacy between boys and girls.
Zahra is an advocate for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from Sudan who’s passionate about reducing the gender gap in her country. With the help of Peace First, she launched Impact Sudan, an initiative to encourage and empower high school girls to continue their education and inspire them to be future leaders.
Bassant grew up in Egypt where the popular culture demonized people with mental health issues. Films, tv series and magazines portrayed them as crazy, society stigmatized them and encouraged people to avoid interacting with them. A person with mental health issues is deemed invaluable, perhaps even problematic and should be avoided at all costs. These negative portrayals never sat well with Bassant which is why she decided to pursue a degree in psychology and work in the field.
The experiences of incarceration alone are not the only punishment people recieve. For too many, no matter the offense they committed, employment opportunities are extremely limited or nonexistent. This is especially true for women in Egypt coming out of incarceration, something Hana couldn’t help but notice. Seeing the stigma these women were facing motivated Hana to learn more about the experiences of these women and better understand the situation they were being released to. For Hana, these women were victims of an injustice that was compounding on itself; their inability to find proper employment was forcing them into more and more dangerous situations.
Fellow in Residence & Regional Manager, MENA
Gaelle is a social activist and a nonprofit leader engaged in social change since the age of 16. A pharmacist with a strong belief in health equity, Gaelle has co-founded a medication aid initiative called ‘Paracetmour’ that is assisting people in Lebanon with medication shortage and insecurity. She is currently leading an initiative called ‘Haddak Men B3id/ Assistance from a Distance’ co-founded along with eight of her childhood friends, which came to life amidst a global pandemic and economic crisis with a mission of decreasing poverty and hunger among struggling families in Lebanon. This initiative has assisted more than 550 families across more than 70 regions in Lebanon with food and livelihood assistance with the help of young volunteers.
Yousra is an artist and a youth activist who is dedicated to the development of underprivileged communities in her region through social entrepreneurship, technologies, and dialogue. Inspired by the hundreds of young people in her marginalized community, Yousra participated in several peace-making projects focusing on gender-based violence, social discrimination, bullying and lack of opportunities. Yousra also leads a project that empowers kids to resolve injustices in their local communities and practice changemaking.
In addition to her youth-focused work, Yousra has several years of professional experience in supporting start-ups, social enterprises and SMEs to accelerate their growth and leverage their success in the MENA region’s biggest incubators and innovation hubs. Besides her B.Eng. degree in computer engineering from Jordan University, she holds a diploma in conflict management from Fryshuset-Sweden. Yousra is also a member of the UN office of counter terrorism youth unit working with a global team of changemakers on designing international peace-focused youth programs and materials.