While other kids were dreaming about being a doctor or an engineer, Ruby Haji Naif was adamant: she was going to be a journalist. Growing up in pre-civil war Syria, the young girl was not sure why, but she wanted to be in the heart of the action. “I didn’t really know how journalism worked, but I was drawn to the excitement of reporting from the field. Little did I know that journalism can be so much more powerful and actually change lives.”
After the civil war started, Rubby left to Beirut, where she pursued a BA in anthropology and political science. There, she fell in love with the study of human relations and what would become the drive of her future activism: behavioural change. “It became such an obvious answer to the problems I was witnessing around me and back home, in Syria. I genuinely believe that the study of human nature is key to unfolding, better understanding and finding solutions to the challenges of our times.”
Eager to put this theory into practice, the young woman started enrolling in all the courses, internships and workshops she could lay her hands on. Through the EU-funded D-JIL programme, she entered a mentorship programme with Raseef22, which gave her concrete tools to convey her message, with a specific focus on the Arab world audiences. “We got to learn from actual professionals, who taught us what day to day journalism meant. This really prepared me to such a wide range of sectors in the media and turned my vision around.” This is also when Ruby learned about the power of journalism for social transformation. “It was no longer about being in the middle of the action, but about advocating for change and putting the spotlight on under-reported issues.”
Since then, Ruby has continued taking on courses, honing her many skills to promote change at her level. A consultant on Middle East engagement for a number of foreign organisations, she is drawing up plans for a startup aimed at providing guidance for NGOs intervening in the region.
A four-year EU-funded programme, D-Jil aims to contribute to the active citizenship and empowerment of young people in the target countries of the southern neighbourhood by using online media as a vector.
It does so by offering young citizens from the Arab world the opportunity, resources and training mentoring to create and produce digital content for new generations.
D-JIL provides mentorship to 20 initiatives from youth in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia.
D-Jil You22 fellowship program
Part of the D-JIL programme, the You22 project is led by Raseef22, a liberal Arabic media network founded in 2013 with the aim of emulating the new Arab citizen and creating a sense of a shared future among Arab citizens.
The You22 project (in reference to the 22 countries of the Arab League) works to identify, select and train 20 to 30 young journalists or content producers from the MENA region, who will then give have the opportunity to join the Raseef22 site team.