Loubna Bensalah is a young Moroccan who decided to walk a 1000 kilometres in Morocco and another 1000 kilometres in Tunisia. Her mission is to empower women, to raise awareness on gender equality in the Middle East and to hear stories of different women from different walks of life. Her project ‘I Walk With Her’ received significant media visibility and she was invited to speak in April 2018 to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris about Preventing Violent Extremism.
“In my twenties, I questioned everything around me, particularly the negative representation of women in my country. I needed to take a break, to search for my identity and to choose my path. I decided to start walking and getting to know my region, my environment and my roots. That’s how the initiative #IWalkWithHer was born. I walked a 1000 kilometres in Morocco from Casablanca to La Plage Blanche for women’s rights. I took the roads that connect people and I met women and girls from different backgrounds, stayed with them, learned from them and most importantly, listened to their stories.”
“I will never forget the people who I’ve met while walking. All stories are important and have an impact on me. Anyone can walk with me by simply joining me on a walk or by supporting #IWalkWithHer online. Anyone can walk with me regardless of philosophy, gender or physical abilities. After the meaningful walk across the Atlantic coast of Morocco, I wanted to know more about the #MENA region. I walked another 1000 kilometres in Tunisia in order to search for answers to my questions that remained. Over the kilometres and encounters, my objective was to create safe spaces for women to have an open dialogue about women, youth and their relationship to society, because change is not only made by changing laws, but by changing mentalities.”
Worried about the rise of the number of radicalized youth each year and the representation of women in her society and in her region, Loubna felt the need and the responsibility to engage in the prevention of all forms of violence and to spread values of human rights among youth.
After these beautiful walks, Loubna created "Kayna", a project based on the proximity of young people and women in university, cultural and civil society networks, which promotes the liberation of speech and bodies through walking, and cultural and sports activities. The main goal is the intellectual empowerment of young people and women, strengthening their immunity to all forms of manipulation by giving them the means and tools necessary to create their own definitions.
“There is a strong need for platforms that provide women and girls safe spaces to speak up without being judged. This is why I started another project called Kayna, which promotes freedom of speech and bodies through walking, cultural and sports activities. My team consists of local Moroccan women and men, because it is important to engage also men in this cause. My project’s aim is to raise awareness on gender equality. Now, I have chosen my path – it is to walk with her.”
Loubna Bensalah, founder of I Walk With Her, was one of the inspiring young speakers who participated in the launch event of the UNESCO project ‘Prevention of Violent Extremism through Youth Empowerment in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia’, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, on 24 April 2018.
The UNESCO Youth Programme works to ensure that talented young people’s ideas and skills enact real change in areas related to UNESCO’s fields of competence. Youth are no longer just beneficiaries in the organization’s work, but essential actors in finding the solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.