The Obama Foundation Leaders: Europe program is a six-month, virtual leadership development and civic engagement program that seeks to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders from across Europe.
To mark the end of their program year, President Obama joined the leaders for a conversation about their work to change their communities, nations, and the world. Mrs. Obama also had a special message to share with them.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
The Leaders: Europe program identifies emerging leaders working in government, civil society, and the private sector who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the common good. It aims to build a growing network of innovative and ethical changemakers who seek to drive change in their communities while developing and supporting one another. Through a core set of shared values and leadership skills, the program seeks to lift up a new generation of civically active, positive role models who are prepared to create tangible solutions to the challenges in their communities, countries, Europe, and the world. Program offerings include:
Over six months, Leaders come together for weekly virtual meetings to discuss some of the most challenging issues confronting Europe with the community leaders at the forefront of them.
Tailored workshops support Leaders in building their leadership toolkit, from mastering storytelling and mobilizing people to action, to building powerful campaigns and coalitions.
A community of support
The program includes opportunities for Leaders to meet virtually in small groups and for one-on-one conversations to build deep, lasting relationships that will carry them through their leadership journey.
Inspirational cultural events
An exciting series of virtual cultural events like live performances and stimulating conversations with artists and creative thinkers fosters a strong spirit of hope and community.
Civic engagement projects
Leaders complete the program by designing collaborative projects to reach young changemakers in their communities and inspire civic engagement.
We are delighted to welcome the first class of Leaders: Europe this September. Meet these phenomenal changemakers below!
MEET THE LEADERS
Obama Leaders are emerging leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the common good. Our Leaders tackle a diversity of issues, but they have a lot in common—they have all driven positive change for their communities, are guided by core values, and share the Obama’s Foundation’s vision of leadership rooted in service to others.
Co-Founder and Head of Education, Department of Women and Girls, Yezidi Center for Human Rights
Isabel is Co-Founder and Head of Education in the Department of Women and Girls of the Yezidi Center for Human Rights (YCHR). YCHR empowers and protects the rights of national minorities in Armenia. Through this work, Isabel has run local empowerment projects, such as opening a Yezidi Youth Club in one of Armenia’s villages, so that Yezidi girls and boys can learn about their identity, culture, and rights as a national minority. She is a strong advocate against child marriage and has been instrumental in supporting young Yezidi women to attend university. Isabel is passionate about creating a more inclusive society in Armenia by empowering national minorities.
Co-Founder and Project Manager, MAKEOUT
Nick is the Co-Founder and Project Manager of MAKEOUT, an antidiscrimination project empowering the LGBTQ community in Belarus and one of the largest online platforms for LGBTQ issues in the region. Among his many projects, Nick created a leadership program for young LGBTQ leaders that has fostered a new generation of activists in cities across Belarus. Nick is passionate about empowering communities that face discrimination and believes in their creative potential to change the world.
CEO and Co-Founder, Blue Lobster
Nima is CEO and Co-Founder of Blue Lobster, a marketplace where low-impact fishermen can sell their catch directly to consumers, ensuring fresh fish and fair pay. Nima is especially proud of having brought the Refugee Food Festival to Copenhagen for the first time last year. The festival created a sense of unity around an issue that had been politically sensitive throughout Denmark. Nima believes sustainable fishing practices can be transformed into an economically viable choice for fishermen and is passionate about building business models that create positive impact.
Chairperson and President, The Left Youth of Finland
Liban is Chairperson and President of The Left Youth of Finland, Vasemmistonuoret/Gurutnuorat, a political youth and civic organization with 3,500 members committed to achieving a freer, more humane, and more equal world. Liban is proud to have run a youth-led campaign for the Finnish parliament in 2019 and, even though he didn’t win, is inspired by the voters who put their trust in him and by the great team work that made the campaign possible. Liban believes all systems of oppression are intertwined and that marginalized voices need to be centered in the work of creating more equal and sustainable societies.
Co-Founder and Chair, Anti-Racist Forum
Amiirah is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Anti-Racist Forum, an NGO working to empower people in their fight for social and racial justice to achieve an equal society. As someone who came to Europe as a young adult, Amiirah is especially proud of being able to provide mentorship and jobs for racialized minorities and influencing critical national conversations on racial issues in Finland. Through her work with ARF, Amiirah is helping to develop a national hate crime reporting platform and is a strong advocate for developing a national action plan against racism. Amiirah believes social justice comes from the lifelong processes of learning, reflecting and being accountable to communities.
FARHAD SHAMO ROTO
President, Voice of Ezidis (VOE)
Farhad is President of Voice of Ezidis – VOE, acting to prevent and end discrimination against Ezidis and to advocate for Ezidis fundamental human rights. Farhad’s work with VOE has resulted in sustainable impact for communities in Iraq and Europe. Farhad is passionate about offering his competencies to serve others most in need.
Julia is CEO of Elueslocales.fr, a company dedicated to training and empowering elected officials to better serve their local communities. As part of her work, Julia has facilitated over 100 local gatherings to train more than 1,000 elected women per year. Julia believes local governments play a key role in tackling challenges and leading towards sustainable and inclusive societies.
Co-Founder and Development Director, Gribouilli
Maïmonatou is Co-Founder and Development Director for Gribouilli, the first vocational organization to support and empower women working as nannies in France. Since founding Gribouilli, Maïmonatou has built a network of more than 700 women and established partnerships with town halls across Paris and the surrounding suburbs. Maïmonatou believes bottom-up initiatives and cooperative models have the power to revive democratic and economic governance. She is passionate about systems thinking, and has taken her experience with systems thinking in STEM and applied it to her work in social justice.
Executive Director, France, Change.org
Sarah is the Executive Director, France, of Change.org, the largest social change platform to enable anyone to create the change they want to see in the world by starting or joining campaigns. Working directly with individual petition starters, Sarah and her team have supported many of the largest social movements in France, including the Yellow vests, the feminist march “Nous Toutes,” and the recent racial justice marches in Paris, “Laissez Nous Respirer.” Sarah is passionate about community organizing and unleashing people’s individual and collective power. She believes a better future can only be built when no one is left behind and when people with less access to power can have a seat at the table.
Chairwoman and Whip, Alliance 90/The Greens, Bavarian State Parliament
Katharina is the Chairwoman and Whip of the German Green Party (Alliance 90/The Greens) in the Bavarian State Parliament, and one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the state parliament. She is responsible for issues ranging from digitalization and the economy, to social policy and gender equity. She is also a member of the board of the national German Green Party. In the 2018 elections, Katharina was chosen as the top candidate for the Bavarian Green’s campaign and led the party to its historically best result as the leading opposition party. Katharina is inspired by the example of the White Rose student group that resisted National Socialism. Her mission is to make the world more sustainable and inclusive, true to the motto, “think global, act local.”
CEO, The HOME Project
Sofia is the Founder and CEO of The HOME Project, a nonprofit that provides child protection services to unaccompanied refugee children in Greece. She has led the HOME Project in creating 11 shelters in Athens, supporting more than 520 children, and creating 140 jobs. Core to Sofia’s approach is her emphasis on developing healthy relationships between local and refugee communities and enhancing the social inclusion of refugee children.
Co-Founder and Director, The Syrian and Greek Youth Forum
Wael is Co-Founder and Director of The Syrian and Greek Youth Forum, an activist collective based in Athens that is focused on community-building, employment, and inclusion. Wael believes that through empowering active citizenship and social interaction, human rights can become a priority in global policies. Wael has worked to support refugees of all nationalities in the Moria Refugee Camp, in partnership with solidarity groups and NGOs, and this experience informed his belief that providing dignified support and building trust and respect is central to human rights work.
Senior Advocacy Officer, Hungarian Helsinki Committee
András is the Senior Advocacy Officer at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), one of Hungary’s oldest and largest human rights watchdog organizations that works to protect human dignity and the rule of law through legal and public advocacy. Among many other projects, András has spent the last five years advocating against the automatic and indefinite detention of asylum seekers in shipping containers at the Hungarian border; in May 2020, the Hungarian Helsinki won the case in the European Court of Justice. András is passionate about healing wounds of deliberate injustice by helping victims and by building enduring coalitions for systemic change.
Europe Policy Manager, Access Now
Fanny is the Europe Policy Manager at Access Now, an NGO that defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. For the past two years, Fanny has served as one of the few civil society members of the European Union’s High Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, where she has been able to positively impact European AI policy. She found her calling to protect human rights and hold powerful actors accountable while working at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. Fanny believes that we must understand the intersection of human rights and technology to ensure that the same rights that people enjoy offline are also protected online.
Deputy Minister, Ministry of Education
Anna is Italy’s Deputy Minister of Education, responsible for the school programs for students from 0-18 years of age that give all students the possibility to develop their unique talents. One of Anna’s initiatives, “superiamo i divari,” aims to overcome inequality between schools in different regions of Italy by supporting school directors and teachers, investing in buildings and digital infrastructure, and encouraging peer-to-peer exchange between schools. As a teenager, Anna dreamed of becoming a teacher; she feels fortunate to play a role in improving the educational experience for all of Italy’s students today.
Co-President, Volt Italia
Federica is Co-President of Volt Italia, part of Volt Europe, the first pan-European progressive party aimed at taking collective action to strengthen the European Union. In her role, Federica helps to run the party’s local, regional, and European campaigns. She also leads Volt’s efforts to change the way politics is conducted and perceived by developing activist campaigns such as the “RoadTo50” to increase women’s participation in politics. Federica believes that a political party should fight for and bring about the change it envisions by combining electoral politics and social activism to achieve a more just and sustainable society.
Co-Founder and Program Coordinator, Keep It Green
Gresë is the Co-Founder and Program Coordinator at Keep It Green, an NGO founded in Obiliq, Kosovo’s most polluted city, with the mission of empowering youth as change agents and environmental activists. As one of her initiatives, Gresë worked with community stakeholders to aid the passage of Kosovo’s first environmental law. Gresë is passionate about environmental protection and about instilling her passion in others to drive change.
Program Manager, Romalitico – Institute for Research and Policy Analysis
Deniz is a Program Manager at Romalitico, a nonprofit think tank founded by Roma alumni from the Central European University that promotes a dynamic open society. As one of his initiatives, Deniz is proud to have collected 11,450 signatures to support key demands and the first public hearing of presidential candidates in front of 1,200 Roma from 16 municipalities across the country. Deniz is passionate about empowering leaders who have a strong moral compass to give back to the community and who believe in the collective goals of the Roma.
Founder and Member of the Board, Lublin Equality March Association
Bart is a Board Member of the Lublin Equality March Association, an NGO in East Poland that organizes Pride Parades to create a safe space to advocate for change. As part of his work, Bart has created a report documenting LGBTQ-rights violations in Lublin and produced the documentary “Article 18” shedding light on the impact of “LGBTQ-free zones” in Poland. Bart draws inspiration from the resistance, solidarity and unity of early LGBTQ activists during the Stonewall riots and is passionate about fighting against anti-LGBTQ propaganda alongside brave young people who are hoping for a better future.
Coordinator for Strategic Litigation, Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Zuzanna is the Coordinator for Strategic Litigation at the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, an independent constitutional authority that safeguards human and civic freedoms and rights in Poland. Zuzanna has won more than 30 landmark civil and human rights cases, focusing especially on marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ community, migrants and refugees, and political dissidents. Her recent efforts have centered on fighting harmful speech online by establishing a group of non-partisan experts and launching a reporting platform for harmful online content. Zuzanna believes that through strategic litigation she can empower people in Poland to stand up for their rights and become more engaged citizens.
Senior Lawyer, Memorial
Marina is a Senior Lawyer at Memorial, a human rights center that fights human rights violations in Russia by monitoring and litigating in Russian courts and in the European Court of Human Rights. Marina is drawn to challenging cases: after four years of litigation, she succeeded in securing compensation for inhabitants who were ousted from their village during a military occupation in 2014. Marina is passionate about the law as an intellectual means to resolve conflicts.
Andrej is the Director of Heartefact, an organization that connects arts with politics to support, develop, and empower critical thinking and reconciliation in the Balkans. Together with the Heartefact team, Andrej focuses on re-examining the role of the citizen observer in building a responsible post-conflict society. Among his many initiatives, Andrej is especially proud of having founded the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, which focuses on building connections and establishing cooperation between young people from different ethnic groups across the Balkans. Andrej believes that we must remember our own violent histories to create a new Europe and not repeat the past.
Director, Ministry of Space
Iva is Director of the Ministry of Space, a collective that promotes spatial justice by inspiring communities to be engaged in neighborhood development, construction interventions and other issues of public concern. She was one of the lead organizers of the “Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own” campaign, which brought more than 25,000 people onto the street to protest the privatization of public space. Iva is also the coordinator of FundAction, a participatory grantmaking platform for activists. Iva is passionate about rethinking and collectively designing alternatives to bring about systemic change. She believes that citizen movements are the main agents of progressive change.
Director, The Research Institute of 8th March
Nika is the Director of The Research Institute of 8th March, an NGO that tackles gender and economic inequalities. In 2015, she coordinated a national LGBTQ equality campaign and today, the Research Institute of 8th March is leading the Slovenian #MeToo campaign. Nika has also recently published the young adult book Brave Girls, profiling women from Slovenia and around the world who have had the courage to change the world. She is passionate about building solidarity through storytelling.
RAQUEL VAZQUEZ LLORENTE
Permanent Representative to the ICC, International Federation for Human Rights
Raquel Vázquez Llorente is FIDH’s Permanent Representative to the International Criminal Court, and their Head of Delegation in The Hague. Before joining FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), Raquel helped build eyeWitness, an organization that created award-winning technology for capturing verifiable digital evidence of human rights abuses. In her work, Raquel has led strategic partnerships with European litigation networks and local activists that have contributed to the documentation and investigation of international crimes in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Raquel believes technology can facilitate justice and help bridge the gap between human rights defenders on the frontlines and institutions with the authority to hold powerful actors to account.
Founder and CEO, The Global Village Foundation
Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of The Global Village Foundation, an NGO that strengthens civic participation, democracy, and social cohesion in Sweden. One of Ahmed’s initiatives is Järvaveckan, an annual program that fosters inclusion and cross-sectoral collaboration by creating opportunities for business and political leaders to speak with concerned groups, rather than about them. Ahmed believes inclusion is fundamental to solving current and future challenges and to ensuring democracy survives and thrives.
Founder and CEO, Sana Labs
Joel is Founder and CEO of Sana Labs, an artificial intelligence company that provides a platform for personalized learning. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Joel and the team at Sana Labs developed a program to provide personalized education on COVID-19 treatment and prevention to 80,000 health workers and 2,000 hospitals. Joel believes education is a meta problem and that humanity can be empowered by providing high-quality, personalized learning at scale.
Co-Founder, Operation Libero
Flavia is the Co-Founder of Operation Libero, a Swiss liberal grassroot movement known for its innovative and effective campaigns, which have successfully defeated the nationalist and populist agenda of the Swiss People’s Party in several referenda. She is also the Co-Initiator of “Helvetia ruft!,” a campaign to increase women’s representation in public offices that helped raise the number of women in Swiss national parliament from 32 percent to 42 percent in the 2019 national election. Flavia believes politics needs to speak directly to people’s hearts and minds.
Co-Founder and CEO, C the Signs
Bhavagaya is Co-Founder and CEO of C the Signs, a company that accelerates early cancer detection and survival by using artificial intelligence to build a future where every patient lives. Bhavagaya believes that every patient, anywhere in the world, has the right to survive cancer. C the Signs has been adopted by nearly 1,000 healthcare organizations in the United Kingdom, delivering vast improvements in early cancer detection rates. Bhavagya is passionate about tackling global health inequalities through disruptive digital innovations and by driving systemic change through inclusive leadership.
Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Green New Deal UK
Hannah is the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Green New Deal UK, which works to build the movement to deliver and sustain a Green New Deal in the UK. Hannah is a longtime climate activist, fighting fracking alongside communities in Lancashire and Yorkshire, supporting the Youth Strike movement to mobilise its largest strike in UK history, and winning campaigns to build more offshore wind farms. Hannah is passionate about strengthening and supporting diverse communities and young people to be powerful organizers for change.
Deputy CEO, Open Government Partnership
Joe is Deputy CEO of the Open Government Partnership, an organization that fosters sustainable, transparent, accountable and responsive governments. Among many other projects, Joe is proud to have worked with partner organizations around the world to make information about ownership and control of companies more transparent, in an effort to combat corruption, money laundering and tax evasion, and to help governments spend resources on their citizens’ priorities. Joe believes leaders working to renew democracy need to work together across borders to share ideas and learn how to reform societies.
Elected Councillor, London Borough of Harrow Council
Peymana is an Elected Councillor of the London Borough of Harrow Council, a local government authority in London that provides vital services to citizens, including education, health and policing. One of Peymana’s initiatives has been to create a training and mentoring program to encourage local community members to run for public office. Her efforts have resulted in a number of newly elected officials who are more representative of their community and are already beginning to shape more inclusive decision-making in local institutions. Peymana believes that a standard quality of life, including decent housing, education and healthcare, is a basic human right.
Executive Director, The 4Front Project
Temi is Executive Director of The 4Front Project, a member-led youth organization that empowers young people and communities to fight for justice, peace, and freedom. the 4Front Project has pioneered an approach that empowers those most directly harmed by violence and the criminal justice system to be at the forefront of a grassroots movement for change. Its youth activists use transformative justice principles to reimagine what peace, safety and justice can look like in the UK. In her work, Temi has supported the development of the Youth Violence Commission, a cross-party governmental commission launched in 2017 to examine the root causes of youth violence in England, Scotland and Wales, and provided expert evidence to various government committees on institutional racism in policing. She strongly believes that young people who have experienced violence and the criminal justice system require holistic support to heal and thrive.
Founder, Moonshot CVE
Vidhya is the Founder of Moonshot CVE, a company that uses technology to disrupt and counter global violent extremism and other online harms. Moonshot CVE aims to deliver social work online to reach potential perpetrators and to steer them away from violence. Vidhya is passionate about the use of technology to solve global problems and has begun this work with her own personal mission to end white supremacist extremism.
EXPLORE OUR WORK IN EUROPE
From an intimate roundtable conversation in Amsterdam, to a buzzing town hall in Berlin, learn more about our work in the region.
In the fall of 2018, President Obama traveled to Amsterdam to hear from a group of 11 emerging leaders working as civil servants, organizers and more from across Europe.
President Obama joined hundreds of emerging European leaders in Germany for a town hall conversation to discuss the future of Europe and the importance of leadership in creating lasting change in the region and beyond.
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