UN Lebanon Celebrates Youth: Say No to Hate

Dima El-Awar, 21, stands in front of the camera with confidence and ease. In addition to being a good speaker, a skill that every journalist would yearn to master, Dima is keen on promoting positive speech and accurate information. Coming from Falougha, a small yet breathtaking village in Mount Lebanon, Dima was hesitant to pursue her dream career in journalism because she thought she was not good enough for this job.

“As a young girl, I always received hateful comments about my personality and clothing style. Some people told me I was too loud; others said that I did not match the beauty standards of TVs and public figures because I did not dress up like girls. Although I used to feel bitter for receiving such comments in the past, today I smile and respond with positivity in an attempt to change other people’s attitudes,” Dima says.

Before reconciling with these negative comments, Dima studied Chinese translation instead of journalism. With time, she recognized that she should not have given up on the dream of her life because of other people’s opinions, so she transferred to studying journalism. “I didn’t want to regret not pursuing my passion when I’m old, so I decided to get over other people’s opinions and to listen to my inner voice,” Dima says with a smile.

UN Lebanon Helps Youth in Lebanon Counter Hate

UNIC Beirut
Students participating in a training session on hate speech and misinformation.
Credit: May Chidiac Foundation- Media Institute

In a training that UN Lebanon, through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), organized to help youth combat hate speech and misinformation under the “Youth Countering Hate Speech and Misinformation” project, Dima listened to other people’s experiences with hate speech and realized that everyone is susceptible to hate.

Dima learned about the various forms of hate speech, its impact on people, and ways for combating it so she eventually became more resilient and skillful in dealing with it. “When I understood that hate speech expresses the other person’s problems not mine, I started accepting myself. I also started accepting others for who they are and seeing the beauty in everyone,” Dima says.

The training helped Dima realize that she had taken the right decision by transferring to journalism because “journalism plays a positive role in the community as it can counter hate speech and misinformation through positive speech and accuracy,” Dima says. It also helped raising her awareness on the importance of combating hate speech and putting an end to “bullying, destructive criticism, and marginalization of anyone based on their identity.”

With funds from the Government of the Netherlands within its support to UNESCO's flagship initiative Li Beirut, and in collaboration with May Chidiac Foundation- Media Institute, UN Lebanon trained 15 youth from different regions and universities in Lebanon on media and information literacy, access to information, combatting hate speech, and countering misinformation. Under this project, the young participants produced 12 social media episodes about hate speech and misinformation after they were trained on the technical strategies for producing social media segments.

Youth: Positive Actors at Heart

UNIC Beirut
Students taking a photo with their trainer on hate speech and misinformation the reporter and news anchor Yazbek Wehbe.
Credit: May Chidiac Foundation- Media Institute

Dima has always been keen on positively impacting her community and this has been manifested in her volunteering with the Lebanese Red Cross in Falougha as a paramedic and emergency medical services volunteer for the past 7 years. “Volunteering allows me to be close to people. Through volunteering, I can show solidarity to people of all ages, gender, and socioeconomic classes,” Dima says with pride.

As a believer in the importance of giving back to the community, Dima is eager to counter hate speech from her role as a young person and a future journalist. “Young people can play a major role in countering hate speech because they are the future generation. They also have the power to change perspectives, are resilient, and accept diversity,” she says. After she overcame the influence of hate speech, Dima is today more confident to stand in front of the camera and to highlight the beauty of Lebanon.

Watch the video.