Twenty-three-year-old Mohammad Mustafa Raheal is part of a new generation of Afghan leaders who have come of age during the post-Taliban period in Afghanistan. Like many of his young compatriots, he wants to see Afghans take a more active role in solving their own problems, an outlook informed by years of benefiting from and actively participating in the foreign aid programs that continue to be vital to Afghanistan’s stability.
Since graduating from USAID’s Emerging Civil Society Leaders program in 2016, Raheal has fought to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and women in protection centers as a project coordinator for the International Psychosocial Organization. On September 3, 2018, his dedication was recognized when he was selected for the One Young World scholarship program. He is one of 12 young leaders selected from more than 4,400 applicants in 160 countries. The program involves one year of training in project management by global executives through sponsor Johnson & Johnson.
As part of the scholarship program, Raheal will join 2,000 youth delegates at an annual global youth summit in The Hague on October 16-20, 2018. Raheal will develop, share, and debate innovative solutions to pressing global health and social issues while gaining access to resources for his work back home. “The international community’s contribution to psychosocial services for victims, returnees, and IDPs is important, and we need to be able to identify resources locally and help Afghans work for themselves and improve their lives,” said Raheal. “At the summit, I want to represent Afghan youth’s talents and show the world how Afghans have the capacity to bring about a better future for our country independently.”
Raheal’s efforts to channel his generation’s skills and energies toward directly improving his country began in 2015, when he joined the Emerging Civil Society Leaders (ECSLs) program, implemented by Counterpart’s USAID-funded Afghan Civic Engagement Program. “The ECSL network, the public speaking, the gender and leadership skills, and the ECSL study tour in Bosnia gave me new ideas on how to work with youth and conduct empowerment programs, all of which advanced my career,” he said.
After returning to Afghanistan, Raheal will organize an event to share his experience so that other youth can expand their networks and learn about professional opportunities. Raheal will draw on his experience with the ECSL program to change how Afghans understand the role of leadership in their country: “In the 21st century, it is necessary to make more leaders rather than more followers. These days, people want to be involved in decision-making and take action themselves. By involving people who lead though action in this process, we can change the face of Afghanistan and move the country in a more positive direction.”