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Rawan Odeh, New Story Leadership

00:00 / 02:15

I can't remember a time when I didn't want things to change. Born in Palestine, raised in NY, we were a struggling family of 7, crammed into a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. One day when I came home from school, Dad broke the big news. We were going back to Palestine.  


I remember the first time I saw an Israeli soldier kill a Palestinian teenager. The look on that soldier, not much older than me, showed me that for him, it was normal. That night I cried myself to sleep and prayed that I would open my eyes and be back in the Brooklyn apartment I had so despised. 


I stood up for the girl in my neighborhood to say NO when she was forced to marry her rapist, I stood up for my brother to say NO when he was arrested by the Israeli army, I stood up for NO whenever I saw injustice…and the world listened. Congresspeople listened, Ambassadors listened, but most importantly my Israeli counterparts listened. 

I do what I do, because the scream of NO is the cry of my generation and the promise of a greater YES to the future worthy of our dreams and not our fears.


Before I knew it, I was in Hewara, a village occupied by angry men in uniforms and loaded guns, the Israeli army. There, my movement was no longer under my control, but decided by the Israeli checkpoints. My body no longer belonged to me, what I wore was dictated by the village men. As a Palestinian and a woman, I was seen but not heard.


The 5am call of Masjid told me I was still in Hewara. Right then, I decided I wouldn’t let my circumstances define me. I took my trauma, pain, and hurt, to connect, to give, and to influence. My power was to transform my tears into a NO that the world might hear.


Rawan Odeh is a Palestinian American. She lived half her life in Brooklyn and the other half in Nablus (Palestine). Rawan has worked with Women’s World Banking on gender lens investments in the MENA region. Rawan is currently the Managing Director of New Story Leadership for the Middle East. Her most recent project is #Sheleads- a gender lens leadership program for bad*ss Palestinian and Israeli women. Her motto? Don't talk about us, without us!

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