Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations Key Takeaways

This February I had the pleasure to attend the Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York. This three-day event gathered over 1000 young (16-30 y.o.) changemakers and leaders from around the world. In its own words, “The 2018 Winter Youth Assembly is a platform to elevate the voices of young people in international dialogues, empower youth to advocate for future generations, and mobilize youth as agents of impactful change.”

A Ripple of #Metoo in Russia: Harassment Scandal & Need for Action

A new sexual harassment scandal is boiling up, this time in Russia. A few days ago Ekaterina Kotrikadze, deputy editor-in-chief of RTVI, along with other women journalists came forward about alleged cases of sexual harassment from a prominent Russian politician, Leonid Slutsky. Kotrikadze was the first woman to speak up about sexual harassment that she experienced at Slutsky’s office seven years ago. After that, more women have anonymously shared similar experiences of their own.

Is this the result of a ripple created by the global #metoo movement, and would Russian women be able to benefit from it?

Data, Gender & Philanthropy Workshop Key Takeaways

On Monday, I attended a workshop on the intersection of data, gender & philanthropy led by my host organization, Spark, and Smash Strategies in San Francisco. For me, it was an incredible opportunity to learn how to assess and measure the real impact of philanthropic investments, as well as to participate in the discussion on the importance of gender data and why it can be so hard to collect.

My biggest event for gender equality – The Black & Pink Ball

Can’t believe it’s over – the biggest event for my Host Organization, Spark, and for me – The Black & Pink Ball happened on September 30th at W Hotel in San Francisco. It was spectacular! Everything that we did for the event will benefit Spark’s programming to educate the next generation about gender equality and our grantees helping 1,000 women and girls receive reproductive health education in Honduras, raise voices of former child brides in Zimbabwe, provide life skills to survivors of human trafficking in Ecuador, engage young women of color from Hunters Point in STEM, advocacy training against sexual harassment in India and more.

Is social innovation the answer to Morocco’s challenges?

Our world is constantly changing, in fact, it is driven by change. The only way to keep up is to keep changing with it, finding new, better ways of performing usual tasks, in other words, innovating. There is no doubt that innovation is essential to progress and prosperity of the humankind. Last year, the United Nations included innovation in their global initiative, Sustainable Development Goals (Goal #9 is to ““Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”). For the majority of people sustainability and decent quality of life are of high importance. However in many countries, including Morocco, acceptable living standards is still unattainable for a significant part of the population. According to recent statistical data, in Morocco the rate of people living in multidimensional poverty is 15,6% (UNDP Morocco), and the unemployment rate is 9,2% (World Bank). For Morocco, with its total population steadily approaching 35 million people, this means that over 5 million people are living in poverty, and over 3 million people at the age of 15 and older are unemployed. Can innovation help Morocco overcome such challenges as poverty and unemployment? Perhaps, if this innovation is of the social kind.
What does social innovation mean particularly for Morocco? Adnane Addioui, the president of the Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (Moroccan CISE), defines social innovation as “finding alternative ways to fix social issues, understanding the complexity behind them and thinking of quick and simple ways to provide answers and solutions needed by communities”. Therefore, social innovation has to originate from deep understanding of the Moroccan society and its needs. Further rethinking of traditional approaches to managing those needs can pave the way for innovation and change in the social sphere.
Is Morocco ready for social innovation? Social change in this country comes with its complexities. Last year, Bloomberg included Morocco in the Top-50 index of the world’s most innovative economies, which is already a good sign. On the other hand, Morocco is still a country with deeply-rooted traditions which influence the minds of many of its citizens. Moroccan people have a very unique way of dealing with social issues such as poverty. They have a strong culture of giving to the poor, and take this responsibility seriously and personally. However such traditional thinking sometimes can hinder the progress and close the door to new innovative solutions. Adnane Addioui calls some of Moroccan communities “innovation averse” (analogy of risk averse), and mentions that it is not always easy to change the preset ways and to defend new ideas.
Fostering social innovation and change in Morocco is challenging. Organizations dedicated to promoting social innovation are quite few. For instance, the Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship facilitates social innovation through finding entrepreneurial solutions to social issues in Morocco. Under the Center’s guidance, several social startups work on tackling specific societal issues (like poverty) and improving livelihoods of disadvantaged people. In fact, social entrepreneurship is one of the best examples of social innovation in practice. The work that social startups do often aligns with the work of numerous NGOs and foundations, however it is innovation that gives entrepreneurs the edge. Startups have the potential to create numerous jobs in local communities and actively participate in the local economy.
There are many ways how socially innovative solutions can improve lives in Morocco and around the world. Social innovation can open borders, bring tolerance and acceptance of new ways and methods. Most importantly innovation can act as a driver of social change. Social innovation will not entirely solve all social issues that exist in Morocco, but it can certainly facilitate the process. In the end, innovation is not just a tool, it is a way of thinking, a philosophy, perhaps, the new philosophy of the XXI century.

Film the Pride: 5 Movies that Helped Me Understand Love

June, the first summer month in the Northern Hemisphere and the Pride month. As it’s coming to an end, I would like to share 5 of my favorite LGBTQ-related movies and reflect on love: universal, equal and free.

1. A Single Man (2009)
An unexpected at that time gem from a world-famous designer Tom Ford. A story about a man left alone in the world because of the death of his lover.
Why I love it: The movie made me cry. It is one of the most profound depictions of love I’ve seen on screen. It is deep, personal, and tragic. It is a story about serious, adult love and loss. It features some of my favorite actors who show how the people we love sometimes define us and our destiny.

Women in Ukraine and Russia are #notafraidtospeak. Not anymore.

The issue of sexual violence is on the lips in Ukraine and Russia. A hashtag #notfraidtospeak (#Янебоюсьсказать), introduced by a Ukrainian activist Anastasia Melnichenko, instantly gained momentum, as many women finally had a chance to talk about their personal experiences of sexual violence. Many of them, for the first time.
The hashtag #notfraidtospeak appeared in Ukrainian and Russian-speaking social media in July of 2016, and after only a few days it had been used in thousands of posts from women of different ages and social backgrounds. All of them have been at some point sexually harassed or abused. Many of them found courage to speak publicly about these traumatic experiences for the first time in many years. A staggering amount of women talked about the incidents that occurred to them, when they were still minors (under 18 years old). Most of the girls have never been able to tell their parents (let alone the police, friends, society) for the fear of being misunderstood or blamed for the incidents. Many of those sexual assaults were carried out by someone from a close circle: friends, colleagues, and even relatives.
The hashtag #notafraidtospeak gained support from many women, including celebrities who had always kept this part of their lives away from the public eye for the same reason of victim blaming.
The issue gained a lot of responses from men as well. Some of them apologised for their own behavior, and for the one of the others. Some commented that they had never realised the scope of the problem, and how much pain the actions considered innocent or fun had actually hurt women around them. Some, unfortunately, resorted to defence and blame. Many comments were made to support a very popular belief that men could not control themselves, when they saw pretty women.
The hashtag #notafraidtospeak has revealed many issues that the Ukrainian, Russian, and possibly global society is facing today. It revealed that due to social pressure and stigmatization many sexual harassment cases go unreported; and the assailants go free. It revealed that sexual violence against women needs to be put on the social agenda. It revealed that boys and girls alike need to be educated about personal boundaries, and understand the implications of breaking them.
On the bright side, the hashtag #notafraidtospeak also revealed the power of social media in tackling social issues and igniting social change. It showed that many women who at had gone through traumatic experiences were not alone; and now they had gained an audience ready to listen, understand, and sympathise.

Dear Climate Marchers: Pick up your banners!

In the last 100 days, we have been overflown with a massive wave of People’s Marches. Initially a protest, each of them has become a manifestation of values we believe in, a call to action, a wake up call not only for the White House, but also for the entire world. Walking in perfect formations and wearing knitted hats has become a favorite weekend pastime for many of us, and how can it be any different?