Yasmin Yonis, a University of Georgia Honors graduate (AB International Affairs, AB Journalism, ‘11) who has received two of the country’s most prestigious scholarships, the Merage American Dream Fellowship in 2011 and the Truman Scholarship in 2010, will seek postgraduate degrees in law and public policy to carry out her dream of a life devoted to public service.
“Everyone has the right to a safe home, clean water, food, and education,” she says. “They also have the right to live their lives without oppressions such as forced marriages, slavery, and violence.”
Most of Yasmin's work has been focused on marginalized communities of color in the United States, especially low-income black and immigrant communities, addressing educational equity.
Born in civil-war-torn Somalia and raised in the United States, Yasmin is preparing for a career that seeks to make life better within these two countries and anywhere in between. She is particularly interested in women’s rights and empowerment worldwide.
In her on-campus role as a Roosevelt Scholar, she presented a policy proposal at the CURO Symposium to encourage the increased use of solar cookers in African refugee camps, thus reducing gender-based violence against women who must walk far distances from their refugee camps for wood.
She was also selected as an inaugural Carl Vinson Institute of Government Fellow and did extensive research on the creation of training programs for African women to develop economic, social, and civic resources.
“I would target females in my campaign for human rights,” says Yasmin, who as an undergraduate was one of only 10 students nationwide selected as a law fellow in the University of California’s Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute. “Women complete two-thirds of the world’s work, earn only 10 percent of the world’s income, and own less than one percent of the world’s property. Approximately 1.3 billion people live in absolute poverty – on less than $1 a day – and 70 percent of them are women. Women and their children also comprise almost 80 percent of the world’s approximately 15 million refugees and 26 million internally displaced persons.”
Having served as a leader on the Black Affairs Council and as a recruiter with the Honors Program and Undergraduate Admissions offices, Yasmin has made a strong contribution to the UGA campus.
But she’s also been a force away from UGA, establishing a mentoring program with a local elementary school to respond to the community’s dropout rate, working for Voice of America/English to Africa in Washington, DC, and interning in Atlanta with the International Rescue Committee, aiding refugees settling in Atlanta from locales such as Burma, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Thailand.
“This was the same organization that resettled my family in the United States after we fled a civil war in Somalia,” says Yasmin, who adds she’s the first female in her family to graduate from college.
In her final college semester, Yasmin’s efforts were directed toward working with the Somali diaspora. She interned in the Somali region of Ethiopia with the international humanitarian organization Mercy Corps, working on projects related to educational access and women’s rights, and she also took part in a UGA international affairs study abroad program, interviewing Somali refugees throughout Italy, the United Kingdom, and Austria.
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