Nada Dhaif

Ashoka Fellow


This profile was prepared when Nada Dhaif was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
Using a contextualized and culturally sensitive approach, Nada is catalyzing a grassroots movement to socially reintegrate victims of state torture and violence. Starting in Bahrain, Nada empowers citizens in the Arab Gulf region to understand their civil rights, stand up against human rights violations, and transform the nature of the citizen-government relationship. In region governed by monarchy and often repression, Nada is initiating the first movement of its kind to combat low levels of political participation by empowering citizens to hold governments accountable.

Nada uses a two-pronged approach to engage victims of violence, as well as their families, the broader community, the media and international actors within the field of human rights to place pressure on the government and put power in the hands of people. First, Nada creates community volunteer ambassadors that rehabilitate and socially re-integrate psychologically traumatized victims of torture, their families and surrounding communities. Nada has designed both physical and online programs in order to work a culture that stigmatizes the pursuit of psychological support, even in cases of trauma.

Secondly, in addition to the work done with victims themselves, Nada develops tools that allow the victims and the community to hold their torturers accountable in a peaceful manner. She achieves this through a research, advocacy and a media arm that medico legally documents cases of torture, publishes studies on state violations and disperses results that call for action from citizens and the international society through scientific symposiums, publications and an online TV show that highlights citizens of the Gulf.

Nada is breaking a vicious cycle of violence and shifting the experience of individuals and communities subjected to human rights violations from victimhood to changemaker. In doing so, Nada helps them move away from potential negative consequences – becoming apathetic, suicidal or even expressing their anger through violent extremism – to a place in which they cn fully function within society again. She ensures that they are empowered with the knowledge and tools needed to use peaceful avenues to stand up for their rights. Moreover, Nada breaks cultural taboos that bind victims of torture and describe them as “weak” if they seek psychological and social support after being subjected to a traumatic torture experience.

In the long run, Nada envisions that this bottom-up movement will lead to greater citizen contribution to public life as well as changes within legislation with respect to citizen-government relationships in the Gulf, especially as it pertains to civil rights and freedoms. Nada’s idea is also replicable in countries where repression, conflict and war have prevailed for years with broken support networks and structures.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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