From a war torn country to Nobel Peace Prize delegate

By Lucie Wirz, 2018 Caux communications intern

09/07/2018

Raghad Al Saadi was one of this year’s speakers at the Just Governance for Human Security conference. Raghad and her family were displaced by the different armed conflicts in her home country, Iraq. When she moved to the United States, she started developing a project to bring more safety to refugee women and children.

Missing media item.

Raghad Al Saadi's cheerfulness and enthusiasm make it hard to believe her when she says how exhausted and stressed she was before coming to Caux. But apparently Caux made it all go away: ‘You have no idea how happy, how peaceful, how calm, and positive I am now. I feel that I have wings and that I am flying!’

Raghad experienced three wars in Iraq. She remembers the harsh conditions in which she and her family had to live when they went to the rural areas to flee the bombing in Bagdad.  It was especially hard for a young girl: having no privacy, sharing one room with her entire family. Once she almost slipped into a deep stream. There was no one around and she could not swim.

At 31, despite the reluctance of her parents, she decided to leave Iraq for the United States. There she started a Masters in peace operations and UN interventions. As she studied armed conflicts and population displacement, the violence and the lack of security that women and children face caught her attention and brought back some of her own memories. Women and children are still often the first to pay the cost of conflicts.

Shelters are often located in remote areas where, most of the time, there isn’t any access to the internet and where communication to service providers is lacking. This puts refugees at even greater risk of being victims of abuse or of simply feeling in danger, like Raghad did back then. So Raghad began to look for ways to help women and children to feel safer and empowered to report cases of abuses: ‘I want women to have evidence, so that if they are abused they can report it and justice can be done.’ She contacted an engineer, who had developed a wireless device capable of tracking supplies and objects and who agreed to develop a similar device for humanitarian purposes. So Raghad now has a prototype, through which users can send a distress signal if they are in danger. She wants it to look like a watch and has called the device ‘misBit’.

When she is discouraged Raghad imagines children using the watch. This vision of ‘children smiling and being intrigued’ keeps her going. 

‘There were times, especially getting to know the technology, where I asked questions and where I felt unqualified,’ Raghad says. ‘But then I realized that not being an engineer does not make me less than an engineer.’ Once an older man told her that she should get a white man to talk about her idea because people would not take her seriously.

This is where Raghad’s story goes beyond helping women refugees. It is a story of empowering everyone, especially young women, to be confident, not to give up in the face of challenges, to believe in their dreams and to become changemakers.  ‘You are powerful if you want to be,’ she says. ‘If you choose to be effective in any field, you can develop the necessary skills. There are no barriers, except the ones you put up for yourself.’

In 2017, Raghad presented misBit – Empowering women and children to combat sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking in refugee camps and disaster zones at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. She has established her own company, Polar Lights Prime, to take the project to the next level. Several aspects still need to be considered. Who will have access to this data? Who will be the providers? Raghad is conscious of the challenges and risks that come with such a device but she believes strongly in the benefits of technology: ‘Increasing connectivity, access to information, are all part of protecting human beings,’ she says.

Featured Story
Off

related stories

Caux Palace view night

Climate and the economy in the post-COVID world

As pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions slowly begin to ease and a return to normal life seems nearer at hand, we are at a critical juncture as to how we choose to act towards our enviro...

Nazarene Mannie

My Learning Story: Nazrene Mannie

Nazrene Mannie is the Executive Director of the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) and talks about her learning experiences. Our interview series 'My Learning Story’ hopes to become a global learning...

Daniel Clements

From personal change to conference leadership: Daniel Clements

Daniel Clements, the coordinator for this year’s Creative Leadership conference, would not have become involved with Initiatives of Change Switzerand without his father, who recommended that he attend...

COVID 19 slider EN square

The Caux Forum is going online!

Our team together with the international IofC Network is working hard to give you an online 2020 Caux Forum, trying to get you as close as possible to the “Caux experience”. Although we will not be ab...

COVID 19 slider EN final

COVID-19 : The Caux Forum 2020 is being transformed

In light of the global health crisis surrounding coronavirus, as well as its organizational and financial implications, the Council of Initiatives of Change Switzerland has decided to adapt the Caux F...

Caux_Palace_Sunset

Job offers for the Caux Forum 2020

For the Caux Forum 2020 IofC Switzerland is looking for a Dining-room Manager, a Cash Desk Manager, a Buffet Manager, an Allocation Manager and a Support Team Manager....

Open House Day group with kids

Internship: Open House Day & Project Support (40%)

IofC Switzerland is looking for an intern who will be in charge of the Open House Day on 5 July 2020. The intern will also support IofC's projects in the area of trustbuilding, in particular with rega...

Caux Palace, credit: Paula Mariane

3 Job Offers: Dining-Room Assistant / Technical Services Assistant / Reception Desk Assistant

You would like to work in an inspring place with people from all over the world? IofC Switzerland is looking for a Reception Desk Assistant, a Technical Services Assistant and a Dining-room Assistant...

Michael Akampa

Making investment work for the people

The Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) in 2017 was a ‘turning point’ for sustainable investment professional, Micheál Akampa, who was invited to speak at its Invest in Peace conference. ‘I met ...

CDLS 2019 Tom Duncan

Empowering communities to restore mangroves

Tom Duncan is CEO of Earthbanc and passionate about problem solving and strategic systems thinking, primarily in regenerative economics, green finance and financial technology, as a means of restoring...

Nhat Vhuong

Plucking water from the air

Webmarketing consultant and social entrepreneur Nhat Vhuong is passionate about tackling water scarcity. A Vietnamese refugee, who grew up in Switzerland, he worked in Japan for eight years before ret...

Meghalaya CDLS 2019 Conrad Sangma

Meghalaya’s lighthouses of sustainable development

‘Our goal in Meghalaya is to build a low-carbon economy through complete involvement and ownership of communities,’ Conrad Sangma, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, told the opening session of the Caux...

CDLS 2019 Chau Duncan

Bridging the financial divides

Chau Tang Duncan is applying over 20 years’ experience in banking, trade and commercial diplomacy to improving the financial access of disadvantaged communities. ...

Aibanshngain Swer CDLS 2019

Protecting Meghalaya’s water sources

Some billion people rely on water sourced in the hills of Meghalaya, in North East India. One of those responsible for water conservation in the State, Aibanshngain Swer, took part in the Summer Acade...

Hartmut Behrend Mali

Combatting climate change in Mali

Taking part in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) 2014 encouraged  German climatologist Hartmut Behrend to move out of the bubble of well-intentioned international activism to work on the g...


related events

Opening Ceremony 2018 audience 28 June 2018

Opening Ceremony 2018

opening ceremony 26 June 2019

Opening Ceremony