Defined Without Borders and Adobe's Project 1324 Challenge Give Voice to Conflict-Affected Youth
Being a teenager is a time of exciting new experiences, a time for exploration of new ideas, developing paths for creativity, and finding one’s place and purpose in the larger world.
But for millions of youth around the world, that time is defined by conflict, displacement, and lack of opportunities for education, livelihoods, and meaningful participation in their communities.
Omar Mahmoud Yaghmour, a young Palestinian living the past six years in Jordan understands the challenges of being a refugee youth during this crucial time in life. “The obstacles that stop young people from having their voices heard are often the young people themselves,” he states. His enthusiasm for the power that youth can have is infectious. “In my opinion, if you want to achieve something, you can!”
Omar is one of the more than 162 million youth ages 10 to 24 living in the MENA region—the broad swath of countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Many of them are young people fleeing from conflict-affected areas, like Omar, whose support networks have been severely disrupted or cut off.
To help address the needs of these youth, the No Lost Generation (NLG) Tech Task Force brought together private sector business with humanitarian agencies to collaborate with conflict-affected youth, to actively involve them, and to celebrate and encourage youth to develop meaningful ways to participate in their communities and globally. Defined Without Borders was designed by conflict-affected youth and Mercy Corps, a co-lead of the No Lost Generation (NLG) initiative, in partnership with Adobe Project 1324 and with support from the NLG Tech Task Force. The project has created a challenge to support, connect, and amplify a global community of emerging artists to use creativity as a force for positive impact. The Challenge is a creative prompt for young people ages 13 to 24 to learn new skills, take part in collective action, and push the boundaries of their creativity.
The Challenge theme is about identity: Identity as a way for young people – particularly those affected by conflict – to express themselves and reflect on their many dimensions as unique individuals. The opportunity for youth like Omar to express their voice through the arts enables them to participate in their communities and to shape their own narrative. Through the program youth learn new skills and talents, explore the world through imagination, grow and understand the issues that every teen experiences the world over.
The Challenge is open to all youth on the Adobe Project 1324 platform (more than a quarter million) and for the first time, conflict-affected youth actively participated. For 16-year-old Aya Assi, a Lebanese teen living in Tripoli, the Challenge has provided an outlet for her to not only express her creative talents, but to also restore her faith in the future. After learning about the Challenge at the Bussma Community Center in Baalbeck, Lebanon, the budding artist enthusiastically entered.
“I drew a picture of nature and a hand reaching out,” says Aya, “showing that there is a will for life that will always exist, despite all challenges. It represents my love of expression and emerging and it reaches out for joy and love.”
Eighteen-year-old Palestinian Aya Shanaa, also living in Lebanon, says that for her, the Challenge allows her to express her views on the status of women, helping to reveal those issues through her art.
"My aim through this image is to reveal that women have the capability to be equal to men,” she states. “I am trying to reveal what women go through in our societies. Women struggle a lot as they are expected to work, provide for their families, and raise their children all at once. My picture reveals the struggle they go through."
For young people like these, and thousands more, the Adobe 1324 Challenge is giving them a voice—a voice for their gender and for their culture and social status. It's also an inspiration for young people the world over who are seeking to gain identity and participation in society, no matter where they live or how others define them.
This World Refugee Day (June 20, 2018), join us in amplifying the voices of young creators by:
The Defined Without Borders Challenge focuses on the issue of participation: Young people affected by conflict are faced with myriad obstacles and have limited access to participate in, and contribute to, their communities and connect with their peers in a positive way.