Yassmine Ouirhrane, a 23-year-old Moroccan-Italian woman, has distinguished herself as a model for young Europeans dedicated to promoting international understanding and European integration.
Rabat – With eyes set on “changing the face of migration,” Ouirhrane has won Schwarzkopf-Stiftung’s Young European of the Year prize.
The Schwarzkopf Foundation award the prize to young Europeans aged between 18 and 26 “who have worked in an honorary capacity towards the understanding between people or integration of Europe.”
The award’s €5,000 prize is “intended to finance a six-month internship with a Member of the European Parliament or at another European institution.”
Still, Ouirhrane’s winning did not escape criticism from anti-Islamist Europeans and people who paid more attention to her headscarf than her accomplishments.
Robert Menard, the founder of Reporters without Borders (RSF), tweeted on March 4 following her awarding: “Here is the young European model to the EU Parliament. Will the next one be behind a burqa?”
Voilà la jeune européenne modèle pour le parlement de l’UE. La prochaine sera-t-elle derrière une burqa intégrale ? pic.twitter.com/PIX288zaC0
— Robert Ménard (@RobertMenardFR) March 4, 2019
Ouirhrane is a strong-willed young woman who advocates for youth, peace, and security, as well as for equitable access to education and political opportunities for people from different backgrounds.
Born to an Italian mother and a Moroccan immigrant father, Ouirhrane understands what it is like to not feel “included’ in her own society.
“I have struggled all my life to feel included and accepted in my society,” Ouirhrane said when she received the award.
Ouirhrane’s life experience did not weaken her but rather made her stronger and more committed to “building blocks for European unity, as I advocate for gender equality, social justice and countering violent extremism.”
To Ouirhrane, “the award symbolises a milestone and a step forward towards inclusion for all young European citizens.” She added that the award symbolizes a “collective win: for young women, for immigrants daughters, for Europe, for Unity in Diversity, for change, tolerance, respect of the other, for peace.
Ouirhrane’s message to all young Europeans who wish to feel “included” in their society and need hope is: “We are European too, today more than ever.”
Ouirhrane has rich experience with the United Nations and other organizations empowering underprivileged youth and women and promoting education.
Currently living in France, Ouirhrane studied international relations at Sciences Po Bordeaux in Pessac, France. She is an expert in peace and security at the AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, a multi-stakeholder initiative.
She also works as an advocacy member at United Network of Young Peacebuilders, who led a delegation of 20 underprivileged students to attend the European Youth Event 2018. Ouirhrane also helped organize the European Youth Forum’s 2018 YOFest in Strasbourg.