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Esra’a Al Shafei risks her own life to bring social justice in the Middle East

A black and white cartoon of a woman with glasses, Esra'a Al Shafei.

*six-two 35 under 35 changemaker of 2018 – human rights category

Esra’a Al Shafei risks her life everyday to give her peers a voice. Esra’a is from Bahrain, and like many Middle Eastern countries, the stories of media censorship and political corruption are many. In a bid to overcome this she has launched a crowd sourced news platform, a music streaming service and many community groups for minorities.

Sarain Fox, a fellow activist and judge for six-two’s 35 under 35 human rights category, nominated Esra’a for her tireless work in the civil activism space. “Her blog has become one of the main sources of accurate information in the Middle East, and her music streaming service acts as a link to the outside youth who are often living in isolated and monitored markets,” Sarain explains.

Esra’a is the founder and Executive Director of Majal (Mideast Youth) and She uses her platform and her love for music as a vehicle for social change. Mideast Tunes for example is an app that showcases underground Middle Easten artists who sing and write music about their lives, and their desire for change. CrowdVoice on the other hand, uses the mobile network to help the rest of the world see what’s really happening in the Middle East by sourcing news  – real news – from the community.

Esra’a does all her work online. She has used the internet as a tool for widespread impact within her community and beyond, showing youth in Bahrain and beyond that facts can be found online if you are savvy (and safe) about it.

Esra’a has also had a hand in starting several communities for threatened religious, ethnic, gender and LGBT groups in her region. Esra’a believes that the internet can be used as a tool for social change and can put power back into the hands of the people.

Her progressive work speaks for itself, and Esra’a has been the recipient of many prestigious international awards such as the Berkman Award from Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, for outstanding contributions to the Internet and its impact on society; and the Monaco Media Prize, which acknowledges innovative uses of media for the betterment of humanity.

You’ll notice that despite her extensive portfolio Esra’a doesn’t show her face and that is simply because she has been threatened with violence in the past and is at risk if she is recognisable. You can listen to Esra’a deliver a powerful TED X talk (of which she is a fellow) about her work below:

You can follow Esra’a on Twitter and Majal’s amazing work on their website.

To learn more about the six-two 35 under 35 initiative, and to see the individuals who made the list, head here.