Hajer Sharief, co-founder of the Together We Build it NGO in Libya and an Extremely Together Young Leader of the Kofi Annan Foundation, is known for playing a key role in peacebuilding and conflict prevention. An initiative of the Kofi Annan Foundation’s Extremely Together initiative, Hajer has also assisted in designing the first ever youth-led countering violent extremism toolkit. A former member of the UN Advisory Group of Experts for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, Hajer is a recognised UN Women Champion on Women, Peace, Security and Human Rights, and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year.
In this week’s Business Unusual Podcast, Karla Fletcher, Head of Marketing at Topco Media, chats with Hajer Sharief on how she began her peace building journey and what inspired her to take this path. Hajer goes in depth on topics surrounding democracy and gender norms, as she discusses sensitive womens’ issues and the importance of womens’ participation in debates geared towards societal change.
Key takeaways to listen out for in this podcast:
- When women grow up witnessing a war, it changes them; one’s perspective on all things in life alters as one witnesses how ordinary civilians are affected by injury and death. You are able to see things differently to those who have lived more comfortably.
- Hajer developed the will-power to pursue peace initiatives through ‘understanding’ and ‘experience’. When you develop a sense of needing to evoke change, you feel a responsibility to assist and fix things where possible.
- ‘Democracy should start at home’ – Her ‘unconventional’ upbringing and family dynamics inspire her ideas behind having democratised forums for discussions.
- People should be able to engage around important matters, as equals. We should be able to debate and provide constructive criticism as ‘humans’ – there should be no gendered or hierarchical approaches to such important communication practices.
- We need to understand that not everyone has the ‘luxury’ of speaking in democratic spaces. There is too often fear of punishment and therefore communities of people are unable to speak freely – we must come together to find a way to fix this.
- You have a right as a member and participant of society to speak up and be heard, and held accountable for your own thoughts and opinions.
- Whilst extremely sensitive issues do exist, we should not hide or run away from addressing these difficult topics.
- The most difficult thing felt by a minority group is ‘isolation’. Individuals who experience feelings of isolation are too often left silenced – we need to amplify these voices for the greater good.
- When you choose to fight for human rights you will face much frustration. However, you need to persevere and work towards opening up minds, especially that of the Youth, who are capable of making positive shifts in the future.
- It is nice to have a plan, but you should exercise your sense of flexibility for as long as you can afford to. Your mindset will change eventually, and your goals will change along the journey too. Consistently work on having a healthy, open mind, and try to be a role model for other women.
*To listen to the full podcast, please click here
As a human rights advocate and the co-founder of “Together we build it”, Hajer Sharief promotes gender equality and the participation of women and youth in peace building efforts in Libya. She was selected by the UN Secretary-General to serve as a member of the Advisory Group of Experts for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security mandated by UNSCR 2250. Hajer is also one of the twelve UN Women Champions on Women, Peace, Security and Human Rights.