Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize: Seventeen Years of an Admirable Story

More or less seventeen years ago, in Mingora, the largest city in the Pakistani district of Swat, a baby girl was born. The date was precisely July 12th and she was welcomed by her family with great love and joy. It is interesting to imagine, so many years afterwards, that the whole world would hold the same sentiments towards this girl, perhaps also with an additional touch of hope and pride.

Malala Yousafzai has earned the admiration of many people around the globe as a result of her actions and the way she has conducted her life towards one objective, and one objective only, since she was born: “my mission is to help people”, she said once during an interview with BBC. This goal–her life goal–has remained steadfast and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize she received on October 10th proves this better than anything else.

Get to know Malala

Malala may be a schoolgirl, but she was never little. Or at least, not in the childish sense of the word. Growing up in a family where education has always been praised, Malala values the importance of learning, and this has not changed even with the political instability in her country. In particular, the Taliban is known for its violent activity in the Middle East and also for their extreme interpretation of Islam, which they use to validate their own operations. As a matter of fact, a number of the group’s arbitrarily cruel actions are related to the oppression of women.

When Malala first heard that she was not allowed to attend school because she was a girl, she could have just looked down and obeyed, as so many other girls did. At first glance, her calm face and peaceful eyes may demonstrate that she is more likely to remain quiet than express her own ideas out loud. However, for Malala (and, to be honest, to me and a good deal of other people I know as well), the idea of keeping women in the shadows simply did not make sense.  How could girls not be allowed to go to school? Unfortunately  for the Taliban, school was exactly where Malala wanted to be, and she decided to spread her will to the world.

I am Malala

At the age of eleven, Malala wrote a blog for the BBC about her day-to-day life under the Taliban occupation and her subsequent desire for things to change. As she spoke for herself, Malala was also speaking up for a generation of young girls and women who are prevented every day from entering into an education institution due to the simple fact that they are female. “All I want is education”, she cried, and thousands around the world stepped forward to support this statement.

Sadly, in October 9th of 2012, Malala’s voice was almost shut down. After hearing someone call her name, she became the victim of a murder attempt. One of three bullets hit Malala and for some time the world wondered, concerned, if this little girl of big actions would become just another addition to the sad statistics.  Meanwhile, while Malala was fighting for her life, different people and organizations everywhere used the tragedy as a turning point to further the fight for women’s rights and increase opportunities for equal education.

One of the most significant instances of this was the UN petition signed by Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, which urged that every child in the world should be in school by the end of 2015. The petition used the slogan “I am Malala”, which reached all corners of the globe, and had a huge influence in the ratification of the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan.

Malala’s legacy

Perhaps all of these positive reactions had something to do with Malala’s recovery. In 2013, she celebrated her birthday, perfectly well, by giving a speech at the UN Headquarters. Her words requested universal access to education and demonstrated that bullets will never be able to stop the struggle for a better world.

“I am very thankful that people in Pakistan and people around the world on the next day [of the shooting] raised up their voices; they spoke for their rights. Malala was only hurt in Pakistan, but now she was hurt in every corner of the world”, she said in an interview for BBC, only one year after the attempt on her life.

Some time later, the Nobel Prize committee announced that the recipient of the Peace Award of this year had a familiar name. Together with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian activist who works for children’s rights, Malala is sharing the $1.1 million prize and the honour and prestige of the world’s most famous distinction. The nomination states that both deserve the recognition “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

These fancy words do justice to the beautiful actions of this seventeen year old, who is the youngest Nobel prize winner in history. In the battle for equal education opportunity, Malala is clearly unafraid of being in the vanguard. Today, AIESEC congratulates Malala and wonders about the future: what else she will do, and for the first time? Personally, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

AIESEC Berlin Wall WWII

25 Years Fall of the Berlin Wall – stories of AIESEC’s youth of 1989

The first thing you get to know when you hear about AIESEC is that it was established in 1948 with the aim of creating a new leaders’ generation: the generation which would avoid the Second World War’s horrors.

Years have passed, but our motto is still the same: “Peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential

But in the 1989, the risk of a third world war loomed like never before, and the epicentre, was once again, in Berlin.

Luckily things went differently: the wall fell down and the iron curtain itself was down for good. After one of the most dreadful times in our history there has come a new chapter in the life of many people, and AIESEC was there.

Stefano Boccaletti, Leonardo Cullurà and Claudia Siracusa, three generations of leaders were in Berlin of the night of November 19, 989.

A month ago I had the pleasure to meet them and to hear their stories.

Claudia started up:

“I just became an AIESEC member and I had to find an excuse to justify my getaway in the middle of semester. I told my father that I had been awarded with a journey for my scholar merits, but the lie was definitely worth it!!!”

For Stefano that would have been one of his last international meetings since he was close to the end of his term and he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

“The night of the 9th of November, was set in my AIESECers’ agenda as an outdoor global pyjama’s party. Suddenly, someone started shouting in German, that “the wall is being demolished”. None of the Italian delegates could speak German but it didn’t take long for us to understand what was happening.”

Leonardo told us that they have managed to steal a street sign to use it as a hammer. Suddenly they saw Claudia jumping on the wall and singing it with a few Danish.

The emotion and the trembling voice while telling us the story is beyond imagination.

The year after that, Claudia has become the AIESEC Brescia’s Local Chapter President, while Leonardo was voted the President  of AIESEC in Italy. In their motivational speeches they both reminded that it is us, young people, who can change the future.

Ana Julea, AIESEC in Italy

See the inspiring story of AIESEC’s first Secretary General, Victor Loewenstein:

Victor Loewenstein’s Berlin Wall Story 

What does leadership mean to different leaders?

The definition of leadership can vary, and it can be interpreted in different ways based on a person’s experience. We previously defined the difference between transformational vs transactional leadership and developed a Facebook application with IE Business School to identify your leadership style.

Here’s what leadership means to different leaders

AIESEC International 

  • Leadership is about positively impacting others through living by example and enabling a continuous rippling effect – Ana Sofia Espejo
  • To me leadership reflects in everyday actions and behaviours. Being a leader is not a one-time thing, it’s a life-long commitment – Karolina Piotrowska
  • Leadership is service, empathy and clarity of vision – Giancarlo Ostuni
  • Leadership is the ability to not just have a vision, but to act on it and engage others around you to act on it. Successfully.  – Kevin Cornwell
  • Leadership means to me consciously changing and challenging yourself for a purpose you believe – Vishant Kothari
  • To me leadership means to inspire action, inspire by example, inspire by your stories – Lucia Taboda
  • Leadership is empowering others to become something greater than themselves  – Gordon Ching
Historical figures
  • To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  • A leader is a dealer in hope. —Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. —Peter Drucker
  • He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. —Aristotle
  • To lead people, walk behind them – Lao Tzu
  • Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. —John F. Kennedy

Modern leaders

  • As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. —Bill Gates
  • A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men. —Stephen King
  • Earn your leadership every day –Michael Jordan
  • Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch
  • My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better  —Steve Jobs

What is your definition of leadership? Tell us on Twitter @AIESEC.

Discover your leadership style with the transactional vs transformational leadership quiz.

Transformational Leadership vs Transactional Leadership

Transformational or transactional leadership? Is one better than the other?

The concept of transformational leadership was initially introduced by leadership expert and presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns. According to Burns, transformational leadership can be seen when “leaders and followers make each other to advance to a higher level of moral and motivation.”

Transactional and transformational are the two modes of leadership that tend to be compared the most.

James MacGregor Burns distinguished between transactional leaders and transformational by explaining that:

  • Transactional leader are leaders who exchange tangible rewards for the work and loyalty of followers.
  • Transformational leaders are leaders who engage with followers, focus on higher order intrinsic needs, and raise consciousness about the significance of specific outcomes and new ways in which those outcomes might be achieved.

Here’s a great breakdown chart of transactional vs transformational leadership.

Transactional VS. Transformational
Leadership is responsive Leadership is proactive
Works within the organizational culture Works to change the organizational culture by implementing new ideas
Employees achieve objectives through rewards and punishments set by leader Employees achieve objectives through higher ideals and moral values
Motivates followers by appealing to their own self-interest 
Motivates followers by encouraging them to put group interests first
Management-by-exception: maintain the status quo; stress correct actions to improve performance.
Individualized consideration: Each behaviour is directed to each individual to express consideration and support.
Intellectual stimulation: Promote creative and innovative ideas to solve problems.

However, there has been recent arguments that transformationa lleadership may be more effective in a long-term setting.

“Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders,” explained psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio. The reason, he suggests, is that transformational leaders believe that their followers can do their best, leading members of the group to feel inspired and empowered.

Where transactional leadership works

Rules, procedures and standards are essential in transactional leadership. Followers are not encouraged to be creative or to find new solutions to problems. Research has found that transactional leadership tends to be most effective in situations where problems are simple and clearly-defined.

While transactional leadership can be effective in some situations, it is generally considered an insufficient and may prevent both leaders and followers from achieving their full potential.

How transformational leadership works:

In their classic text, Transformational Leadership , authors Bass and Riggio explained:

“Transformational leaders…are those who stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacity. Transformational leaders help followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual followers’ needs by empowering them and by aligning the objectives and goals of the individual followers, the leader, the group, and the larger organization.”

We’ve worked together with Juan-Carlos Pastor, PhD, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at IE Business School, to develop an app on Facebook that helps you determine whether you have a more transactional or transformational leadership style.

Curious which leadership style you are? Click here and find out!

 

 

AIESEC and United Nations Millennium Campaign Partnership

On Wednesday September 19, 2014 AIESEC and United Nations Millennium Campaign  signed a letter of Intent for collaboration. The letter was signed by Vinicius Tsugue, President of AIESEC International and Corinne Woods, Director of UN Millennium Campaign in New York City.

AIESEC was established in 1948 in order to achieve peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential through cross-cultural exchange. Currently AIESEC exists in 125 countries and territories developing young leaders around the world.

AIESEC and United Nations Millennium Campaign decided collaborate to strengthen the voices and actions of young people and engage AIESEC members in creating sustainable solutions through actions related to the Millennium Development Goals and in development and implementation of post-2015 global development agenda, such as through the MY World survey 2015 and the World We Want 2015 engagement platform.

Through its projects AIESEC will motivate tens of thousands of young people in taking targeted action and creating sustainable results within one year of the Millennium Development Goals deadline.

AIESEC recently launched YouthSpeak, a global youth insight survey across 125 countries and territories that aims to understand how to improve education and employment for young people so they can reach their fullest potential. Data will be shared with decision makers and youth so the information can raise awareness and educate people about youth opinion and pressing issues. Take Action now and take the YouthSpeak Survey.

Let your voice be heard!

Take the Youthspeak Survey

More on AIESEC
AIESEC: https://www.aiesec.org/

YouthSpeak: http://youthspeak.aiesec.org

YouthSpeak Survey: bit.ly/YouthSpeakSurvey

More on UNMC 

UNMC: http://www.endpoverty2015.org

Add your vote to MyWorld 2015 survey

See the MyWorld results at Worldwewant2015.org

 

For further inquiries on AIESEC and United Nations partnership please contact

Karolina Piotrowska, Global VP Public Relations at media@ai.aiesec.org

How Going Abroad Taught Me About Life – Everyday Leadership

Contributed by Janet Ong

Here are the stories from my exchange experience that surprised me in the end. This is my experience with AIESEC NCTU in Hsinchu City, Taiwan as part of the the project Connect the World from September to December 2013.

This cultural exchange program was designed for us exchange participants to make an impact on high school students by sharing things about and from our countries.

Surprisingly, this exchange program taught me a lot about life. I was approached by one of the teachers in one of the high schools I was teaching at. The teacher knew I intended to go to law school because of how I had introduced myself in her class. She wanted to ask me for more details on law school because she was very worried about her daughter, who was on the verge of giving up law school.

I told her that I wanted to specialize in criminal law and in the field of human rights because I wanted to be a court lawyer and be of service to people. She asked me how I already knew which specific field in law I wanted to pursue this early on. I simply told her that I always remind myself of why I wanted to be in this field to begin with. I remind myself that I am doing this not only for the sake of my career but also for the sake of the people who are in need of help and that I think being a court lawyer best fits this interest.

The exchange program is more than the learning you get from the four corners of the classroom, it is the learning from an experience in life.

She asked me this question so that she could help her daughter who was about to graduate but was attempting to give up. Surprisingly, she really wanted advice from me. I told her to tell her daughter to remind herself why she chose law and to remind herself of the positive things that happened in law school despite the difficulty she was currently having. The teacher said that her daughter was worried about the bar exam. In response, I told her that everyone was scared of the bar exam and even I was afraid of it. I told her that working hard for a dream would achieve good results.

What was the surprise here? After saying those things to the teacher, I  saw myself as the daughter who was worried about law school. Then I reflected on those words I said to the teacher. It made me realize that I can manage as long as I believe in myself. Friends and even former professors have been telling me that I can manage, that I have good academic standing and a keen interest in the classes in my undergraduate course in psychology. I get positive feedback from my classes. What is there to be afraid of? I am afraid of failing, but who isn’t? I am afraid of falling, but who isn’t? Everyone is. It is a matter of facing your fears.

Everyone thinks, I lack the courage to face them; I do not believe in myself; I do not trust myself. If I believed in myself, I would have the capacity to say I can do it. Then I realized, am I not like her daughter too? Afraid? I gave advice that the teacher appreciated and believed that it would be of help to her daughter. I realized, I can do it. I can pursue my dreams despite the struggles; believe despite the hardships.

I got letters and messages from my students, teachers and friends telling me I am a funny and jolly person. They said I have this motivation and energy that influences other people. It has always been a surprise for me to see in the letters or even hear this feedback because I do not see myself like that. I believe that I gained more confidence and courage from this project than anyone could ever imagine. I remember the poster/ad of AIESEC DLSU saying, “Get lost and find yourself”. I am indeed discovering a lot about myself from feedback from other people.

I realized now that we need other people who are courageous enough to tell us about ourselves. Feedback from other people no matter how minor can help us realize what is really happening in our lives. This is why I have to say that I am very glad that I met the people I did, experienced the things I experienced. If not for those, I would not have found myself. I would not have discovered something more about myself. I would not have been the way I am right now. I may have had a tough rocky road along the way but everyone does, right?

I believe that things happen for a reason. Now, I believe that these things had to happen to open my eyes and see the reality. I am grateful for the good and bad. If not for the bad, how could I have appreciated the good so much? Right now, I just do not know the right words to express how much AIESEC, my fellow trainees, teachers, students and friends have helped shape my life for the better. It is quite sad for me to leave because this is the place where I learned a lot, not about academics, but about life itself. It is a place where I found good friends. However, I have to say goodbye, face the things that I have to face back home and continue on with my life. People come and go in our lives but it does not mean that they will be gone from our lives. The people I met will always be treasured dearly. Everyone may be far away from one another but distance is not a barrier to maintain the friendships that we have created.

The world has still a lot to offer. The world still has a lot of surprises. There is still a lot more to learn from. Just smile at the world, and it will surely smile back at you. But this experience is one of the best I have ever had. This is my second home—Taiwan. This has been my Wonderland.

I am happy that I was here. I am happy that I was able to convince students who did not participate to participate. I was able to convince students who did not smile, to smile. I was able to see how keen and eager the students were whenever I was presenting. I am happy that I was able to see how the students’ eyes brightened. I am happy that I was able to see and hear the students laugh, joke and even be loud for a good cause. These were the actual experiences I had with my last class: the most difficult but the best class I ever had.

My last class was supposed to be the most unresponsive and I was told that the class does not really answer questions. However, it was different when I was there. They were welcoming and happy. My last class is where I can say I was really able to Connect the World and fulfill the goals of the project. This was the class where I can say that I really was able to make a difference. These are irreplaceable moments in my life that can make me say and realize that, “Hey! I did make a change”. It may have just lasted for a day, an hour, a minute or even just a second, but the little things showed me that one person could really make a big difference.

This is the teaching experience.
This is the experience of life.
This is the AIESEC experience.
Thank you very much.

After the exchange experience, where am I now? I had the courage to take up law school and continue my AIESEC journey. I am currently a first year student of law and a member of the Finance and Legal Affairs Department of AIESEC DLSU. What am I grateful for? I am grateful that AIESEC shaped my life and happy that I was able to contribute to AIESEC’s vision of “Peace and Fulfillment of Humankind’s potential”

Here’s a tribute for my AIESEC experience:

“The exchange program is more than the learning you get from the four corners of the classroom, it is a life experience. It is about finding who you are and learning more about yourself throughout the journey. I began to open up locked chests that I didn’t know existed within me. Moreover, I’ve realized how life is so wonderful and it never fails to give you those little things that make you smile.
It’s also about never giving up and never losing hope.

It was also in this exchange program that I found what I am passionate and dedicated about — and AIESEC is one of those things. AIESEC taught me how to stand up for myself and be a leader — a leader who will be able to make a wonderful and positive impact in my country and also in the world.

Lastly, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to be part of AIESEC. I will forever and always be thankful for AIESEC.”

“This story was written in contribution to the AIESEC Everyday Leader Series, that showcases stories of everyday leaders who are changing the world. Share your story with the world.

Turn to the Leader in the Mirror

“This moment in history demands that we stop waiting on others to solve the problems and right the wrongs of our times.”

At 66th AIESEC International Congress 2014 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Arianna Huffington addressed more than 700 young leaders from 124 countries and territories.

In her message to young people, she addressed the concept of “leading the change,” focused on empowering young people to create the change they wish to see in the world. Connected with the leadership development that AIESEC provides to young people, Arianna Huffington advises youth to tap into their creativity, leadership and wisdom – “Because wherever we look around the world, we see smart leaders in politics, in business, in media, making terrible decisions. What they are lacking is not IQ, but wisdom.”

Some of the most important issues today including diversity, climate change, education and the impact of technology require not just talk, but action. Arianna says:

“…don’t wait for leaders on a white horse to save us. Instead, turn to the leader in the mirror. Tap into your own leadership potential, because the world desperately needs you. And that means daring to take risks and to fail, as many times as it takes along the way to success and more important, to remaking the world and leading the change.”

How can we ensure that we are leading the change?

The Race to Improving the World Beyond 2015

Did you know there are only 500 days left until the end of the Millennium Development Goals?

As 2015 is slowly approaching, the world is closely watching to witness the accomplishments of the 8 MDGs, set by the United Nations back in the year 2000.

So where are we now? How much did we achieve?

“The world has reduced extreme poverty by half, efforts in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis have shown results, access to an improved drinking water source became a reality for 2.3 billion people”, etc. says The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014.

Let’s take a closer look at the goals and progress reports from this video:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger – 700 million people have been lifted out of poverty, but 1 in 5 still live on less than 1.25 dollars per day in developing countries. And although the world has reduced extreme poverty in half, 842 million people around the world still suffer from chronic hunger.

2. Achieve universal primary education – The number of children with no access to primary school education decreased from 102 million in 2000 to 58 million in 2012. While the amount has significantly decreased, the number of out-of-school children is still alarming.

3. Reduce child mortalityUnder-5 mortality rate was reduced almost by 50%, but a lot more needs to be achieved if we want to achieve 2/3 reduction.

4. Improve maternal health – Maternal mortality ratio is down 45% since 1990. However, every day about 800 women die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

5. Ensure environmental sustainability – Since 2012, 2.3 billion more have access to improved drinking water, but 748 million still use water from an unimproved source.

For more statistics, take a look at:

 

While we ought to celebrate our achievements and recognize the progress we’ve made, we shouldn’t forget how far the world is from where we want it to be. Working on these issues is not priority only now or only until 2015, but every day.

How can we contribute to this?

On August 19th 2014, 700 young people from 124 countries and territories gathered at the Global Youth to Business Forum, an event bringing together top young leaders and experts, business and thought leaders, with the aim of generating new, actionable ideas that will impact the world and its future.

They spent the whole day discussing the topics ranging from Diversity and Inclusion, Technology and Innovation to Climate Change, Sustainability and Changing Education. Together, they have come up with action steps that could help improve each of those areas and move the world forward. Stay tuned for our report to find out about the solutions youth and business co-created together!

Don’t forget that we have only 500 days left until MDGs. At the same time, let’s not forget that impact is a daily responsibility. This is why AIESEC offers volunteer internships that help tackle social topics such as cultural understanding, education and literacy, social entrepreneurship, environment, health and lifestyle and many others. For more information, please visit: http://globalcitizen.aiesec.org

This is how we contribute to making an impact every day and helping move this world forward. Share with us:

How will you contribute to bringing the world closer to the vision of 2015? 

 

Dancing our way to world peace

Martha Graham once said “Dance is the hidden language of the soul”. Agnes de Mille’s words were “The truest expression of a people is in its dances and its music…”  And Hans Bos said “When I dance, I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole, that is why I dance.” During a dance, joy and happiness bring up the best in people and differences are for a moment forgotten or embraced and cherished.

If you are not a part of AIESEC, but have met someone who is, you’ve probably wondered – So why do AIESECers dance? Why do they jump up at the sound of certain songs and start dancing enthusiastically, while you are in a complete shock as to what just happened?

At the beginning of every local, national and international conference we have the tradition of presenting each entity present and their culture by dancing roll calls. As decades go by, the tradition continues and AIESEC entities present their culture through different dances.

Imagine young people from over 124 countries and territories in one room, showcasing their culture and doing roll call by dancing, laughing and cheering for each other.  The barriers and borders disappear, bringing the world together at one place. Diversity, richness of cultures, the splash of colors and positive energy make the room come alive and connect people of fundamentally different backgrounds.

The beauty is not just in the moment, but in the fact that when the music stops and you hear the song again someplace else, you are reminded of the entity which danced it, of their colors, faces, smiles and culture.

AIESEC is unique precisely because it creates a global family of young people, who take time to get to know each other and learn each other’s dances, thus expressing respect and open-mindedness towards different cultures.

When was the last time you saw the world at one place?

We did today and that’s why we are passionate about cultural understanding and intercultural dialogue.

 If you believe cultural understanding is crucial in today’s globalized world, share in a comment your idea of how we can facilitate it!

 

 

The Time We Brought About World Peace – Everyday Leadership

Contributed by Anum Malik

In a world where polarized views engulf so many hearts and the bad guys seem to get their way, what is the beacon of hope? As innocent people suffer all around the globe, you feel overwhelmed with a sense of frustrating and livid defeat.

You’re distraught and you wonder how these current ‘leaders’ can let the world burn like this. People are yelling at each other and so quick to blame. Hate propaganda is on the rise, fueling the anger of people around the earth. In such large-scale conflicts with roots so deep, you wonder how you, as one single individual, can fit anywhere in this warring world and bring some peace.

I’m going to tell you about how you can take out hate. How you can disarm evil, and overrun armies of intolerance. I’m going to tell you about the time we took out hate, disarmed evil, and brought about world peace…and how you can too.

Engaging in combat against hate is arguably one of the toughest battles of mankind. It’s about changing people’s hearts. Don’t underestimate the role of the masses, the role of everyday leaders, the role of yourself. Your army is the power of your voice, armed with your experience. You must take out hate with peace.

Thanks to AIESEC, tens of thousands of people had a life changing experience in a new land and then came home and without realizing, became an honest spokesperson for that foreign land to their own people.

An AIESEC exchange transforms you into not just an ambassador, but also a strategic asset. An asset equipped with knowledge and a voice. Using your experience, you attack with empathy, love, and ideas. That’s how you disarm evil. You lead the mission to cure hate with tolerance. That’s a leader.

I always struggled to understand what exactly was going on in the Middle East. It was a mystical land of rich history, but all I read and all I saw was fighting, conflict and violence. Last year in the summer of 2013, while interning in Egypt, I found myself caught right in the midst of the turmoil. However, rather than confirming any of the stereotypes aforementioned, something quite extraordinary happened to me.

The AIESECers in Egypt were dedicated to not just protecting me, but showing me another aspect of the situation. The Egyptians I encountered were eager to demonstrate that they did not represent the stories that were portrayed around the world about the violent nature of the Egyptian people. They longed for me to understand that they were civilians, not supporting any violence or destruction that came out of the political uprisings. They just wanted peace. I, along with many other interns, took a risk by going to Egypt so we could interact with the people for ourselves. We dared to allow our minds to be free from what we thought we knew.

Egyptian AIESECers and interns. Photo taken at Mokattam, a mountain overlooking the city of Cairo.

But why stop there?

We all eventually left Egypt, but our role in this battle wasn’t over. The Egyptians provided me with an unparalleled and eye opening experience during a challenging time in their country, and it was my duty to report what I saw. Interns of all different countries who found themselves in this unexpected situation in Cairo returned home and word spread like fire about what we had seen. I reached out to all the media outlets I could, trying to find anyone who would listen. My own university heard my call and invited me to speak at a panel. I was a storyteller, using my words to combat notions about the Egyptian people on every occasion I could. It wasn’t about if I supported or didn’t support the counterrevolution. I wasn’t a spokesperson for the political wing of Egypt. I was the spokesperson for the average peaceful Egyptian and their culture. That’s who I supported.

However, as an AIESECer, it was not sufficient to just speak for Egypt in America. It was my responsibility to show the Middle East that I was an American, and that I too didn’t fit their stereotype.

I went back to the Middle East and joined AIESEC Jordan. AIESEC constantly reminded me that I was a leader, and made me realize that I was fully capable to take on a project of my own. I partnered with a Syrian organization in Jordan and together, weaving in both values in from the east and west, we synergized and created a program for refugee children.

As AIESECers, we were left speechless abroad, and then we became storytellers. We were basking in the comfort of our own lands, and then we became global citizens. We were left thinking we had no way to affect the world’s state of despair, and then we became everyday leaders.

So, how did I bring about world peace? Well, it was one of the best moments of my life, and it occurred in the subtlest of ways. It was a sugar cube I received at an AIESEC conference a few months after I returned from Egypt. It was a small note, but the words were so powerful, proving to me that what I was doing, what we all were doing, was working. I was just a girl telling a story. But next thing I knew, I had taken out hate and brought around world peace.

The sugar cube reads: “Anum, you gave me hope for the future of Arab-American Relations. Never stop telling your stories.”

You have the power to take out hate. If each of us adds up our little attempts towards peace such as this, together we might just attain world peace. Go out, explore and allow your way of thinking to be challenged. It’s time to take a risk, sweetheart.

How will you make a difference by starting with listening?

Get involved with AIESEC today and embark on a global internship experience.

“This story was written in contribution to the AIESEC Everyday Leader Series, that showcases stories of everyday leaders who are changing the world. Share your story with the world.