When Ashwaq Anbar first arrived for civil-society and leadership trainings—organized by IREX Europe and its partner Youth Leadership Development Foundation (YLDF)—in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, her fellow trainees were not sure what to make of her. Although her family comes from the conservative tribal area of Arhab, she was not wearing a veil across her face. Instead, she wore only a scarf covering her hair. As a result, many of her fellow trainees thought she was from a less traditional area, such as Taiz or Aden.
Ashwaq’s choice of attire is just one example of the strong conviction and willingness to challenge cultural taboos that make her an ideal project coordinator for Camera as Voice, a 12-month project funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Officeand implemented by IREX Europe. Camera as Voice gives young people opportunities for expression and dialogue about complex issues that can contribute to radicalism—such as globalization, anti-Westernism, modernization, alienation, and community disadvantage.
Ashwaq is the oldest of six children. Despite her tribal background, her family has supported her unconventional choices—from not wearing a veil to furthering her education and pursuing a career. She claims that her father has grown accustomed to defending her decisions to the extended family, village, and tribe.
Ashwaq graduated from the Faculty of Languages at the University of Sana’a in 2005 with a degree in English, but was unable to find employment given the difficult economic situation in Yemen. In 2007, she applied for the Young Women’s Leadership Program (YWLP), a program funded by FCO and implemented by IREX Europe and YLDF that provided participants with a wide range of civil society and leadership skills. Ashwaq noted that through the program she not only gained skills but also learned to work with others and deal with different personalities from diverse backgrounds. She also gained professional experience through an internship with the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI).
When she heard about Camera as Voice, Ashwaq jumped at the opportunity to apply for the Project Coordinator position. As a YWLP graduate, she was the perfect choice for the position because she was already familiar with IREX Europe and had already seen the incredible impact of its earlier partnership with YLDF.
“I am excited to be part of this initiative to help young people find a voice through film about issues that are so important to the future of Yemen,” she said.