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Activist says empowering youths to express themselves is key to development of communities

By Suzanna Goussous - Nov 14,2016 - Last updated at Nov 14,2016

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

AMMAN — To achieve social justice and development, organisations and institutions should give young people the space to express their viewpoints freely, Australian activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied said on Sunday.

At the age of 16, Abdel-Magied founded the “Youth Without Borders” organisation after attending the Asia Pacific City Summit and seeing "all the active and driven" young people there.

Through this organisation the activist, now 25 years old, seeks to help young activists around the world work cooperatively. 

“It’s a youth-led organisation, everyone in it is between [the ages of] 15 and 25. We focus on empowering young people to realise their full potential,” Abdel-Magied, who is of Sudanese origins, told The Jordan Times in an interview at the Australian embassy.

“Whatever ideas people have — whether it’s setting up mobile libraries in Indonesia, or [hosting] Ramadan football tournaments, or engineering camps… we try to find a way to support the idea in order to make it happen,” said the activist, who has studied mechanical engineering to fulfil her dream of becoming part of the Formula 1 car racing teams.

Abdel-Magied’s most recent project in Australia is “Mumtazah Company” that aims at “speaking up for women of colour around the world”.

“I’m really passionate about giving equality of access to opportunity, not everybody is born with the same access to opportunity," she added, noting that she is doing what she can "to level the field a little bit".

“When we talk about empowering the youth, it’s about not treating them as children, it’s about asking them what they want to do and giving them the skills to do it,” she stressed.

One of the main challenges youths face is that they find it difficult to commit to organisations, an issue that can be solved by “creating an experience that they want to come back to”, and “giving them the sense that their energy is going towards something”, the activist suggested.

To Abdel-Magied, who was named among the 100 Australian Women of Influence in 2015, being a student is “a great time to be an activist”.

The core of all the challenges facing women nowadays, she said, is a deep-rooted belief that women are not as equal as men.

“I spent a lot of time growing up avoiding the word feminism, women’s rights… thinking the feminism thing is ‘too Western’, but why is me wanting equal rights too Western? I think that sentiment is an excuse… people don’t like their power being challenged.”

The activist is currently a member of the Council of the Australian-Arab Relations, the board of the Child Fund, and OurWatch. She is also the gender ambassador of the Inter-American Development Bank.

 

During her visit to Jordan, which concludes this weekend, Abdel-Magied is scheduled to meet with university students and activists from across the Kingdom.

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