Salwa Sarhi of Yemen has been working in the development field for 10 years. “I have always been interested in community development from a young age,” she says. By age 17, she had published articles and short stories about social and development challenges in her country.
Salwa, a sustainable development advisor, supports women’s empowerment and learning and provides guidance on policy and programs for enhancing the corporate social responsibility programs of the oil company TOTAL.
Helping people and making a positive difference, even at a small scale, is what motivates Salwa. “One can get overwhelmed easily looking at the huge development challenges Yemen faces today. However, it’s important to keep the focus and determination to stay strong and reach out to support and help when we can,” Salwa says.
Salwa’s main focus in Yemen is lowering the childhood illiteracy rate. According to a UNDP report, illiteracy rates in Yemen in 2009 were 21.6 percent in young people between the age of 15 and 24, and 45.3 percent for the total population. Salwa explains that without education, there is no development. For her, reading is the key to the formation of new ideas and a healthy community. “The continuous detritions of the education level in Yemen to an alarming stage have a big impact on the increased social and developmental challenges that we face today,” she says.
Ironically, Salwa does not see herself as a leader or role model. "I’m mainly concerned about what can I do to help and if I can participate in solving a problem.” She is most satisfied when she can offer an opportunity for learning to someone in need. Through her work, she assisted the National Women Committee in eradicating illiteracy among rural women.
“The impact I always try to leave is not to give up on Yemen and our abilities as Yemenis to make it better even if we can’t see it today. Our children one day will see it and that is the vision that we should aspire for,” Salwa says.