As a youth activist from Morocco, I got the chance to participate in Amnesty International’s Nordic Youth Conference in Denmark and I have to say that when I first confirmed my attendance, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Actually, I did not know much about the host country other than the fact that it is a monarchy and that they make great pastries. Now as I’m sitting on a plane next to a kid constantly speaking to himself, surrounded by crying babies and grumpy adults, I am realizing just how much I have learned in the short period I spent between Copenhagen and Tisvildeleje.
The Nordic Youth Conference this year was about Amnesty International’s campaign My Body My Rights with a focus on the discriminatory articles in the Penal Codes of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. As a young woman first and an activist from Morocco, I hold this cause really close to my heart. I could spend days talking about how changing each one of those articles would affect me or somebody around me in direct or indirect ways, but I will not bore you with that.
When I first joined Amnesty International a year ago as an intern, and later on as an activist/group founder/member of Youth Advisory Council, I could not even allow myself to fathom the possibility of me being sent to Denmark to represent my section. Being chosen was an honour that I had to live up to. Of course, this was neither my first AI related event, nor the first time I was in a setting where I was known as the only Moroccan, but this time it felt different. It took me a little while before I realized that we were all in the same place because we believe in the same ideals, we all aspire to live in a world where we are all equal, yet we show it in different ways. Some choose to wear statement shoelaces while others fetch the cinematographer in them to show support to the people who need it most. Or if you are like me, you channel your clothes making “talents” to manage to create 2 no-sew-wedding dresses out of linen in less than half an hour for a public action. My point is, we are all activists in our own way, we don’t have to all do the same exact thing, we don’t all have to go out to the streets and protest, a simple signature can sometimes make all the difference needed.
The NYC also helped me really understand the International side of the organization. I have often found myself thinking that I was the only one outraged by all the wrong things going on around me. Working with Amnesty International initially helped me understand I was far from being alone in my country. But then again, I still sometimes felt like we were just a minority who truly care about Human Rights. That was until this conference where I saw that no matter where we are from, we are affected by the same kind of issues and problems just as much as the person on the opposite side of the Earth. Seeing so many people from Nordic countries take real interest in the state of sexual and reproductive rights in North Africa is not only refreshing but a good omen as well! It is a true testimony of how the most important thing is not our nationality, sexuality, gender, or age, but rather the simple fact that we are HUMAN!
The amount of learned lessons I am taking back home with me is unimaginable. It is the conviction that I want to do this forever. I want to advocate for the causes close to my heart and make a job out of it. I want to keep on using a framework that not only helps make a difference, but also helps contain the fire within me. For the longest time, I was a dormant volcano, full of fury, indignation, and wrath within and ridiculously motionless from the outside. Amnesty International in general and the Nordic Youth Conference in particular have taught me that it is okay to be mad at the world as long as you are proactive about it! Even when that means letting the lava out in the form of what seems like endless streams of tears.
While writing this, Charlie’s Last Letter from The Perks of Being a Wallflower came up on my playlist. Somehow a couple of sentences in it are so perfect fitting that I am sitting here on this plane with a little tear in the corner of my eye and a lopsided grin on my face. For me, the realization of all of the things I learned during the NYC was not while going on a drive and listening to a special song. It was while sitting on a concrete wall, overlooking the ocean at midnight, in almost complete darkness. The bright half-moon reflecting itself on the waters while peeking through the clouds. In a way, it was the perfect example of how important it is to always look for the light, even when it is not right in front of us, blatantly staring at us and drawing us towards it. Those are the real quests worth taking.