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Big change always starts with an idea. The conclusion of Friedrich Naumann’s project: Rethinking Politics

Big change always starts with an idea. The conclusion of Friedrich Naumann’s project: Rethinking Politics

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Friday 19 November 202109:15 am
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"التغيير الكبير يبدأ بفكرة"... اختتام مشروع لفريدريش ناومان حول "إعادة التفكير في السياسة"

“Any big change always starts with an idea. And behind each idea, is an individual.” This idea, belonging to Mr. Dirk Kunze, Regional Director at FNF MENA, sums up the motivation behind launching the iValues competition.

On October 26, the first edition of the competition reached its conclusion after months of hard work and rigorous workshops. The German Foundation announced during a ceremony held at The Space- Amman, Jordan, the winners of its competition aimed at “Rethinking Politics in the MENA Region” in cooperation with the “Innovation in Politics Institute” in Germany.


One day, 28-year-old Syrian Ehab Kahwati lost his way while walking on a street in Jordan. He turned to ask a passerby for directions to reach his destination, and was surprised to find that the latter was deaf. Ehab thought of communicating with this person through typing on the phone, but it turned out that he could neither read nor write.

This young Syrian man did not let go of that incident. Instead, he thought positively: How can he serve deaf people in Jordan and teach them to read and write?

Hence, the idea of the MARTHA EDU project, which won in the “Quality of Life” category, was born. It is a project aimed at educating the deaf in Jordan, seeing as the illiteracy of deaf persons reached 80% in Jordan, and there is shortage of schools for the deaf and Sign language specialists.

The application’s name, according to Kahwati, is inspired by the story of Martha’s Vineyard, an island with a special history for deafness. Because one of 25 of its residents was born deaf, they invented a sign language in the 19th century that all its residents used to create a means of communication between everyone.

He tells Raseef22 that this island, located opposite the US state of Massachusetts, was and still is witnessing a unique humanitarian experience that shows an example of harmony and respect for the other.

Jordanian attorney Rasha Abu Shaqdan, co-founder of the project, explains to Raseef22 that the electronic “Martha Educational Application” is a design and development supported by augmented reality technology to teach children with hearing disabilities between the ages of two and five the sign language, with the aim of enabling them to access education.


As a young woman living in Lebanon, where women suffer from discrimination on various levels, in family life, at work, and almost in every aspect, Kholoud Al-Khatib seeks to make a difference in reality, so she developed the MIN HAQQIHA application, which aims to inform women of their rights and the options they can use to improve their living conditions.

Al-Khatib, the president of the Lebanese Organization for Defending Equality and Rights (LOUDER), who came up with the idea of the winning application in the “Human Rights” category and prepared its content, tells Raseef22 that the application includes various materials and is based on the “fundamental vision of the universality and indivisibility of human rights.”

The application aims to “establish a rights-based legal reference”, so that every woman can learn about her rights and what the laws guarantee for her. It is a rights-based approach based on a “basic international standards and documents regarding human rights in general, and women’s rights in particular. It compares them to national laws and monitors their implementation nationwide.”

Al-Khatib and the “MIN HAQQIHA” team hope that the application will contribute to raising awareness of human rights, especially women’s, as well as raising awareness of forms of violence and response mechanisms, emphasizing the importance of women’s participation in decision-making, and pressuring decision-makers to promote gender equality.

The Lotus Flower

In the Economy and Jobs category, the winning project was the Lotus Flower, a women’s business incubator that seeks to empower women in refugee and displaced communities in the Iraqi Kurdistan, where about 30,000 displaced families live and are distributed over 26 camps, by helping them launch their own small businesses.

Supported women, most of whom are ISIS survivors and victims of gender-based violence, receive training to become capable of managing their projects from ground up. The project also provides them with qualified psychologists to help them overcome their mental health problems.

Any big change always starts with an idea. And behind each idea, is an individual. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation concludes the iValues-2021 competition, after months of hard work and rigorous workshops, and announces five winners

The ultimate goal of the project is that “Refugee and displaced women become decision-makers, financially independent within their families and communities, capable of providing for themselves and their families, re-invest in their own businesses, and build their confidence, skills and social networks. This will reflect positively on their role in achieving change in society,” says the incubator’s Regional Director, Vian Ahmed.


In the category of Democracy and Community, the winning project was the CIBOOST, aimed at utilizing technology to influence policies and strengthen partnerships in Tunisia.

The project aims to introduce the importance of cultural and creative industries in the communities and economies of the future. Such industries struggle to secure a place for them in Tunisia’s development policies, despite the fact that they contribute about two trillion dollars annually to the global economy and provide about 30 million job opportunities.

Message of Encouragement and Support

For each category, a project wins and gets support according to its needs, with the possibility of providing training to its team, as needed.

Ehab and Rasha believe that winning motivates them to promote the application worldwide, “to leave a real human imprint that helps people with hearing disabilities express what they want.”

The region urgently needs an update in its approach to public policies and democratic action”... The Friedrich Naumann Foundation concludes the iValues-2021 competition, after months of hard work and rigorous workshops, and announces five winners

As for Al-Khatib, she says, “I came from Lebanon, which is witnessing an economic crisis and the collapse of the elements of political life. There, we experience daily defeat, but as soon as I realized the people’s faith in the project, I felt that I had won,” adding that winning is a message of encouragement to the implementation team and also a clear message to all women in the country that “violence is not an inevitable destiny and we must stand against it.” She continued that she looks forward to generalizing the project in the Arab world in the next step.

Sufian Majri believes that the winning of his CIBOOST project is “a real honor for the project team after a long period of hard working,” adding that it poses “a new challenge for the continuation of work in order to serve the Tunisian community.”

As for Vian Ahmed, she considers that the victory is a tribute to “the brave Iraqi women who showed great chivalry and chose hope over fear of the future.” She added that it would constitute an important and great motivation for the Lotus Flower Incubator to continue supporting women inside and outside Iraq and increasing the number of beneficiaries of the project.

What’s next?

“The region urgently needs an update in its approach to public policies and democratic action,” says Yara Asmar, Regional Strategy Manager at FNF MENA.

Prior to the announcement of the winning projects, the workshops brought together a group of innovators and policy makers from different countries. Asmar pointed out that the convergence of views between these two categories is one of the goals of the iValues-2021 project, and that “making policy makers realize the importance of innovation and communication with innovators was one of the most important gains achieved.”

iValues will continue its mission to help establish the foundations of tomorrow’s communities. Next year, there are no clear plans yet about organizing a second edition of the competition, as Asmar explains to Raseef22, “Next year, the winners will work on their projects, and we will help them achieve their dreams, especially since some programs are just ideas that have not been implemented yet.”

She continues, “We also realized how important it is to talk about innovative projects and initiatives and the positive things in the region, not just the negatives.”

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