More than two-thirds of the population of the Middle East and North Africa is below the age of 25. In analysis after analysis, it is the youth that have emerged as the drivers of the so-called “Arab Spring.” At 25, Esra Al Shafei, the Bahraini founder of Mideast Youth, fits squarely within this narrative. Since 2006, her fledgling organization has sought to use digital media as a platform to amplify diverse and progressive voices advocating for change across the region. Available in Arab, Farsi and English, Mideast Youth, through its various projects, offers diverse public access to uncensored information with the aim of strengthening citizen voices and fostering a culture of transparency.
Though initially launched as a simple group-blogging initiative, the organization has grown rapidly and spun off innovative projects like CrowdVoice.org, a user-powered service tracking global voices of protest through crowd-sourcing information. According to El Shafei, CrowdVoice had an immediate impact on thousands of users when the revolutionary protests began in Tunisia and Egypt. Other recent projects include Ahwaa.org, a bilingual tool for LGBT youth that leverages game mechanics to facilitate high-quality interactions; and MidEast Tunes , which spotlights emerging artists using music as a tool for political expression and social change.