State Department Recognizes 2018 Emerging Young Leaders

May 11, 2018

Zina Salim Hassan Hamu began her journey as a photographer after fleeing with her family from ISIS-occupied areas in Iraq. Zina found herself at the Khanke camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. A few months after arriving, she took part in a photography program organized at the camp. Since then, Zina has endeavored to use photography to portray the stories of the Yazidi people.

Zina’s work focuses on women’s rights and demonstrating the positive impact women and girls can make in the world when given opportunities to do so. ''Imagine the story of a 10 year-old girl who has had her dreams and goals taken away,” said Zina, recounting how displaced young girls are often sold into the sex trade. “After she manages to escape, she starts living in a camp, traumatized and hopeless."

Zina is not alone in her fight for human rights and gender equality. She is one of the U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Emerging Young Leaders awardees, and she joins an outstanding group of ten young leaders from across the world dedicated to lifting up the voices of marginalized communities through community engagement, journalism, and activism.

As other examples, Isasiphinkosi, a 23-year-old South African youth leader, directs her activism against sexual assault and gender-based violence, pushing for the creation of a formal policy to address sexual assault and domestic violence on college campuses. Tanzil, from Bangladesh, works to empower adolescent girls and women, focusing on capacity-building initiatives to strengthen young women into the leaders of tomorrow.

This year’s winners have dedicated themselves to upholding human rights, promoting women’s empowerment, and advancing peacebuilding efforts at a community level.

The U.S. Department of State recognized the efforts of these and other outstanding youth on May 2, as they received the 2018 Emerging Young Leaders Award during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The Emerging Young Leaders Award program strengthened the honorees’ knowledge and leadership skills, and expanded their networks. Following Washington, D.C., the leaders met with government officials and private sector leaders to discuss the important role youth can play in creating positive social change. The participants also travelled to Austin, Texas, where they engaged in volunteer activities and met with local groups working with youth and refugees. They ended their trip back in Washington, D.C., before heading home to continue their work as leaders and change-makers in their local communities.

Together, these young leaders are shaping the future, one step at a time.