YES Programs



Daring to Defend Democracy

Sarah Standing In The Midst Of A Group Of Tables Speaking Into A Microphone

In November 2022, Sarah Almzainy ‘16 was selected to participate in the Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (TIES) in Philadelphia, PA. The topic for the seminar was “Youth Opportunity: Defending Democracy and Advancing Human Rights”. Participants included 60 alumni of U.S. government exchange programs from around the world who are professionals, activists, and experts in human rights. The one-week seminar was inspired by the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal which calls for battling corruption, protecting human rights activists, and using digital tools for advocacy. Sarah was nominated for this opportunity by the Office of Palestinian Affairs (OPA). 

Group Of Seminar Participants Standing In Front Of A Long Table At The Philadelphia Commission On Human Relations

The seminar covered trends in human rights and advocacy such as using digital tools to advocate for human rights, strengthening women’s rights, and increasing youth participation in politics. In addition, participants met with local organizations such as the Committee of Seventy and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to learn about their work strengthening democratic processes and protecting minority rights in Philadelphia.  

The seminar was an exciting and informative opportunity for Sarah to connect with mid-career professionals who share her interests and have common goals. Through the seminar, Sarah expanded her knowledge of using technology to protect human rights and document human rights violations. She also learned strategies for implementing community-based projects that bolster human rights.  

At the end of the seminar, participants had the opportunity to pitch project ideas for grant funding. Sarah plans to submit a proposal for a peacebuilding program for young women in Gaza. The program will tackle conflict resolution through negotiations, mediation, and the judiciary. It will introduce the concept of peacebuilding and different methods for peacebuilding. This project will promote gender equality, youth inclusion, and democratic values. 

Sarah studied law at Al Azhar University of Gaza and now serves as a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. She is passionate about advocating for human rights and documenting human rights violations against individuals in all communities. Sarah plans to pursue a master’s degree in international human rights law to advance her career as a human rights activist. 

Sarah Almzainy (YES 2015-2016, Gaza, placed by AYA in Evansville, IN)