Nana Sajaia, georgiatoday.ge
From Tbilisi, Georgia, 23-year old Nino Nanitashvili was among the US State Department’s award recipients as a young emerging leader. On April 20, 2016, the US State Department awarded 10 global Young Leaders, each of whom has tried to bring about social changes through innovative means.
The Young Leaders accepted these honors from James Stengel, US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Mr. Stangel [sic] who said that, “Leadership is unique. If it were commonplace, these young leaders would not be getting such awards.”
“But by honoring you today,” he told the awardees, “we underscore the reality, that you- Young Leaders from around the globe- are extraordinary.” Stangel also quoted President Abraham Lincoln, who once said that moral courage was much more of a virtue than physical courage and it was exactly the moral courage that was needed for leadership.
“Together with courage, there is something else that unites all winners- all of them have made an effort to contribute to peacebuilding and development in their countries,” said Evan Ryan, US Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
A State Department publication, marking this event, had the following words dedicated to the young Georgian winner:
“Nino has dedicated her career to peacebuilding and development through evolving technologies. She founded the first technology-oriented professional community in Georgia, the Google Developer Group, and has organized over four hundred events, meet-ups, conferences and workshops. Nino directs a project that brings Georgian and Abkhazian youth together through online games. Now, at the age of twenty-three, Nino is the Head of Communications at the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University. She leads the Women Tech-Makers Community in Tbilisi, an initiative supported by Google, and serves as a mentor for tech startups and social entrepreneurs in Georgia. She is the chapter co-organizer of Hackernest Georgia and she has spoken on her technology-driven civic initiatives at Google headquarters, the parliament of Georgia, and TEDxYouth Tbilisi.”
The 2016 honorees included a young lady from Malta who is dedicated to grassroots educational projects; a gunshot victim from Honduras who founded a skateboarding club for at-risk youth; and a Palestinian student who started a debate club to promote peaceful exchanges of opinion.
The effervescent winner was keen to share her impressions with the Voice of America’s Georgian Bureau:
“First of all, we proved that these kids (Georgian and Abkhaz) are not different from each other, they are united by similar or common interests. In fact, we challenged the stereotypes that they were different; we showed that interaction is enjoyable when nobody talks about politics or conflict. Kids are simply given a chance to connect and to get to know each other. Subsequently, this became part of a dialogue between people.
It is a great feeling to realise that your efforts are recognized by the US Government. For me, it’s an even bigger incentive to do more. I’m honoured to be able to represent Georgia at such an international gathering.”
The U.S. Department of State’s Emerging Young Leaders Award and Exchange Program recognizes youth around the world for their efforts to create positive social change in challenging environments. The ten recipients of the inaugural Emerging Young Leaders Award represent the power of young people to launch grassroots initiatives to improve their communities. These individuals are the future, and they’re creating change now.