Diversity in spaces where policy, legislation, human rights and peacebuilding are being discussed is imperative in any country. Women of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds are deserving of a seat at the tables where these conversations are held. More than half of humankind is female with invaluable and unique perspectives on world and gender issues. No one knows this better than Nadia Rabbaa, staff member for the UN, former Legislative Fellows Program Alumna at the U.S. Congress, and lifetime student and advocate for women across the globe.
Rabbaa is a Legacy International Legislative Fellows Program (LFP) 2012 alumni, and the awardee of the U.S. State Department Professional Fellows Program Alumni Impact Award of 2014. Her work in the cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Trade in Morocco, with the United Nations in New York and the Central African Republic, and her unceasing passion for education even after two master’s degrees, earned Nadia Rabbaa her award and the respect and admiration of all involved with Legacy International. Her work with Moroccan women was accomplished through her LFP project, a training on social media for Congresswomen of different political parties. Rabbaa’s project was geared towards impacting democratization in Morocco by reaching out to the youth of the Kingdom, increasing transparency and accountability of elected representatives while empowering women in politics.
Rabbaa attributes some of her passions with her unique identity, being French and Moroccan. Because her mother’s country colonized her father’s country, she feels as if her life is a piece of the history of European’s encroachment in Africa. Following her interest in this, she pursued a career in panafrican journalism and was eventually trapped in conflict when the war in Mali erupted in 2012. This led her to question conflicts, move to the United Kingdom to study violence, conflict and development, while working for the UN. After her experience as a UN peacekeeper, Rabbaa shifted her focus to war and conflict, the limitations of the international development system, and peacebuilding.
Rabbaa now focuses on women’s roles in conflict zones, but stresses that “social justice in a peaceful society is what peacebuilding is in a wartorn country.” Peace to Nadia is really justice, saying that “peace is also building a fairer society.” So, how would Nadia suggest women get involved in politics or peacebuilding? While easier to say than to do because of widespread discrimination, abuse and financial dependence on men, Rabbaa suggests that women find their autonomy first. “Before trying to change the system, focus on yourself and ensure that you can be financially, emotionally, and physically independent to form the foundation from where to speak for yourself.” After finding this autonomy, Rabbaa advises finding sorority, discovering common grounds and bonding with other women. Then, with a support system to back you, start at a small level and build your way up.
While Nadia Rabbaa has a growing list of remarkable accomplishments, she is a student, a sister, and a friend like many of us. Her first time giving a speech was at her acceptance of the Alumni Impact Award in 2014 in Washington DC in front of 300 people, in her third language of English. Regardless of her triumphs, she hates talking about herself and maintained her modesty throughout her interview. She is currently attending the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to earn her third master’s degree. A short summary of Nadia’s work with women across the world is not nearly enough to encompass her merits and fervent passion for intersectional feminism. She leaves the women of the world with Maya Angelou’s quote; “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
The Legislative Fellows Program and Professional Fellows Program are sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by Legacy International.