“If You Can’t See the Change, Be the Change”


Eman Siam, RWI MENA Senior Programme Officer based in Amman, remains optimistic about the work RWI does in a region marked by a number of conflict and post-conflict situations. For her, the Middle East is home – she was born in Jerusalem and later moved to Amman. Witnessing first-hand the atrocities committed in the region over the past few decades makes her work on human rights in the Middle East a personal mission and a passionate commitment.

 We are living in a very traumatized area. The intersecting conflicts are not only affecting the political and socio-economic environment, but are also deteriorating the psychological health and well-being of individuals whose voices are rarely heard and feelings are rarely felt. Despite the grotesque impediments we are surrounded by, I still believe I can contribute to be an agent of change whenever I can. If you can’t see the change be the change.

Siam works at the RWI regional office in Amman, Jordan on the application of international standards in national judicial systems throughout the Middle East. She has prior experience working at a number of different international organizations. When she first came to RWI, she admits that she wanted to quit. Soon afterwards, she quickly grew to appreciate the uniqueness of the RWI approach.

“What makes us different from any other program is that we focus on opportunities rather than on challenges,” Siam said. “What we do at RWI is we put emphasis on the positive things our countries can and have achieved and build on them. I call it an inspiring program.”

The aspects that make RWI different are precisely what Siam grew to appreciate about the work she does at the Institute. RWI programmes, she says, bridge the gap between theory and practice by connecting research-based methods with results-driven strategies that empower partnering organizations.

All of our programmes are really based not only on needs-assessment but on real, in-depth research making them more realistic and more responsive to the people we work with. The partnership is really unique with RWI because we encourage the sense of ownership with our partners. That’s what makes them enthusiastic about working with us, and that’s what helps us implement our programmes relatively quickly and progress smoothly and naturally in what we do.

Siam says the most rewarding part of her job is tracking the success of partnering organizations. She explains that partners can often be hesitant at first to work with RWI but often grow to be enthusiastic. She told stories of some judges in the MENA region she worked with who told her about how they were applying international conventions in their rulings, something they learned through an RWI programme.

I noticed the change in attitude with our partners from when I first started our work three years ago and saw resistance in the beginning. Now those who were the most resistant are the best advocates.

When asked if she is optimistic about the future of the Middle East, her answer was two-fold. While she was pessimistic about the overall political situation, she is proud of what RWI has been able to accomplish in the region.

“We have laid the ground for a new way of thinking,” she says. “We are aiming at institutionalizing this particular methodological way of thinking in the educational systems of partner countries, and you help to create new generations of like-minded people who think critically and are inspired by jurisprudence that applies international standards in  national courts.”