Four Women Making a Difference Around the World

Held on March 8, 2018, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to showcase the achievements of women around the world and press for gender parity in all corners of society. World Learning will be celebrating all week long with stories showcasing the contributions of women in our global community.

Women play an essential role in creating a more peaceful and just world. You can see it in all of World Learning’s education, sustainable development, and exchange programs: women around the world are making a difference in peacebuilding, civil rights, science, and countering extremism.

In honor of International Women’s Day, World Learning would like to share the successes of women from all the branches of the World Learning Inc. family, which includes The Experiment in International Living and School for International Training (SIT), as well as our Global Development and Global Exchange units. We’re grateful to work alongside these — and so many more — awe-inspiring agents of change.

Fadia Najib Thabet

Pushing to Include Women in Peacebuilding

Fadia Najib Thabet (right) accepting the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award.

One year ago, Fadia Najib Thabet won the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award for her work protecting children from Al Qaeda and Houthi militias in Yemen. For six years, she rescued children who had been abducted, forced to be soldiers, and raped, and she helped them reintegrate into their communities. Thabet also documented human rights violations and developed an action plan with the United Nations to better protect children from conflict.

Thabet is now working on a master’s degree in peacebuilding and conflict transformation at SIT Graduate Institute. She hopes to use the knowledge she gains to change how the peacebuilding process works — and she believes women are the key. “I want to encourage more young girls to join this program so we can move forward with our country,” she says. “We’re going to rely on us to build peace.” Read more of Thabet’s story.

Dorothy Stoneman

Working Toward a Better Future Through Youth and Community Advocacy

Dorothy Stoneman (center) with YouthBuild USA participants.

Dorothy Stoneman’s journey to the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement can be traced back to a summer abroad in France with The Experiment in International Living. The experience expanded her worldview and ultimately set her on the path to become a teacher, community advocate, and founder of YouthBuild USA, which helps low-income youth earn their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills, and serve their communities by building affordable and increasingly green units of housing.

In 2012, the White House named Stoneman a Champion of Change for her work. But there are still pressing civil rights issues she hopes to address, such as closing gaps within the education system and finding solutions to address the disproportionate number of people of color in prison. “The dominant culture needs to invest in opportunities for education, job training, employment, and service for young people born into poverty,” she says. Read more of Stoneman’s story.

Yasmine Yehia Moustafa

Changing the World Through STEM Education

Yasmine Yehia Moustafa (far right), who invented a system to produce clean water and biodiesel using rice straw, speaks to World Learning staff visiting the Maadi STEM School for Girls.

Yasmine Yehia Moustafa made her first discovery two years ago. Thee 18-year-old Egyptian high schooler devised an innovative system that filters water through burning rice straw to help communities across Egypt access clean water. For her discovery, Moustafa won first place in the earth and environmental sciences category at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair — and NASA even named an asteroid in her honor.

Moustafa developed the water filtration system as her capstone project at the Maadi STEM School for Girls, one of 11 high schools World Learning has established across Egypt as part of the USAID-funded Egypt STEM Schools Project (ESSP). In addition to gaining practical knowledge, Moustafa credits her school for helping build her confidence and leadership skills. Maadi helped her realize that she has a bigger role to play. “I can change the world,” she says. Read more of Moustafa’s story.

Hafsat Mohammed

Countering Extremist Narratives in Nigeria

Hafsat Mohammed, an alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program, works to counter violent extremism by engaging young people in Nigeria.

Over the last decade, Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram has carried out many brutal campaigns across the country, resulting in more than 10,000 people killed. In early 2014, Hafsat Mohammed was traveling in northeastern Nigeria when Boko Haram opened fire on her minibus. She survived, but the attack motivated her to take on the extremist group.

Mohammed, an alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program, worked in schools across the country to encourage religious tolerance among students and catalyzed local leaders to speak out against extremism. She also started her own NGO called Choice for Peace, Gender and Development, to help young people and women affected by Boko Haram’s violence. “I feel the pain of other mothers,” she told Al Jazeera. “They feel helpless to prevent it.” Read more of Mohammed’s story.