Change is good, but never easy. Mindlessly following what worked in the past often seems like the safest option available. Speaking up and trying to influence some of the ugly realities out there is the only thing that moves humanity forward. Rasha Hammad is one person who is certainly unafraid of doing so. As eniGma’s Mahmoud Al Badry found out, Youth Underground’s board president, founder and CEO is not an idealist, but rather a realist with an ardent desire to change some of the world’s injustices.
Rasha Hammad has always had a firm desire to tackle the most chronic illnesses that are plaguing humanity. After having a topsy-turvy childhood where she was continuously on the move from one country to another, Hammad decided to pursue her passion for trying to make the world a better place. She was never really the person to measure her life’s worth based on her moneymaking abilities. Instead, she believes that the best way to improve one’s quality of life is through improving that of others.
It comes as no surprise then that her continuous travels soon led her to Switzerland, the world’s biggest hub of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that seek to provide help to people in need all over the world. She worked for three years as a speech writer and policy adviser to the executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). She still felt like she could do more until she found herself particularly intrigued by preventing human trafficking, or “modern-day slavery” as she likes to call it, the second biggest underground trade industry in the world.
She left her post at the UN, and joined End Human Trafficking Now. There, Hammad co-founded and managed the organization’s youth programs. She viewed targeting the younger generation as the most efficient and sustainable method of ending human trafficking. “The problem that we’ve always faced in addressing human trafficking is that people are lured into becoming commodities without truly understanding what that entails. People really don’t understand the monstrosities committed,” Hammad stated. “By providing education to the youth, we remind them that they always have a choice, no matter how hard someone might try to convince them otherwise.”
This stance is really what led her to found Youth Underground less than two years ago. The program, based in Switzerland and operating all over the world, attempts to raise awareness about the prevalence of human trafficking by relying on numerous young volunteers to deliver a hands-on, education-based program to areas in need all over the world. “Even if a country is very advanced, there will still be elements of human trafficking within it,” she explains. “The practice will continue so long as there are poor people whose knowledge, or lack thereof, allows them to be exploited.”
In Egypt, for instance, Hammad asserts that the lack of education, coupled with outdated notions of patriarchy and honour killings, are the biggest causes behind human trafficking. She is adamant that these instances will continue to arise despite all of the government’s efforts, as long as various areas in the country fail to receive sufficient levels of education.
Looking ahead into the future, Hammad remains unperturbed by the enormous amounts of money generated by the heinous 35-billion-dollar industry. While she might not be particularly pleased with how much money is still generated by the practice, she is equally content in knowing that her program is changing people’s lives for the better.