Aizharkyn Aisakhunova , Kyrgyzstan
Aizharkyn wanted to strengthen ties between countries in Central Asia to address the rising threat of violent extremism in the region. Extremist groups have been gaining strength in Central Asia over the past five yearsa so Aizharkyn and her team worked to host the first ever Central Asian Youth Forum on Peacebuilding and Security in Kyrgyzstan, with the support of the international NGO Search for Common Ground. She invited delegates from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well as Kyrgyzstan to attend a two and a half day Youth Forum on peacebuilding. The Forum attracted a diverse range of attendees including prominent young sports players, faith leaders, social activists and entrepreneurs. Experts from across the region gave talks on their various specialisms and explained how this knowledge can be applied in the real world today. The Forum enabled delegates to collaborate in groups and formulate ideas to advance Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) efforts in their home countries and in Central Asia in general. Many attendees are still in touch, and some of them have collaborated to implement the ideas they conceptualised on their return home. One particular success from the Forum was a project initiated by four Kazakh attendees who formulated an organisation to empower young people in their local areas and foster cohesion through collective action. The group continues to operate today and has subsequently gone national in its reach.