Even though Imane Bakkioui is only 21, she already participated in 2 embassy sponsored programs: Women to Women (W2W) and the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Imane studies Arabic and Islamic Studies at the KU Leuven. She’s a strong advocate of interfaith dialogue and dreams of a society where people listen to each other.
I’m Imane Bakkioui. I’m 21 years old. I’m currently in my third Bachelor year of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the KU Leuven.
The programs that I participated in were Women2Women and the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)
The first one was the Women2Women. Now almost 2 years ago. It W2W took place in Antwerp, and it was all about women’s rights, and how to stand up for your rights. It was a conference with professors from Harvard. The participants were about 70 young girls from all over Belgium. We bonded, talked about the future of Belgium, about political themes, and about social issues.
The other program was the International Visitors Leadership Program. I had the immense chance to go to the United States for 2 weeks. We visited Washington DC, Atlanta, and Charlesville. We learned about interfaith dialogue. I’m doing Arabic and Islamic studies so it matched perfectly with my studies. We had the chance to meet religious leaders – rabbis, imams, or other clergies. We talk about how they live their religion in the United States, and how important that is for them.
When people look at me, they say: “Oh, you’re Moroccan.” I usually respond by telling them: “No, I am Belgian.” I’m not going to deny my Moroccan roots, of course, but I’m Belgian. I feel Moroccan because of my origin, but I was born here. I lived here all my life! I study here. I will work here. So I feel Belgian.
It’s very interesting. The United States is a country of immigrants, but they’re not so obsessed with your roots. They’re all Americans. I really hope to see this happen in Belgium. To just see everyone as just Belgian with different roots maybe, but still just all Belgians.
“I really hope that Belgians will start listening to each other”
When we say we want to make the world a better place it really looks like a big dream, and it’s not possible. But every small step is a step in the right direction, even the little ones, even smiling to someone, even just motivating someone, even just to listen to someone because he or she just needs some help. This little act is a little step to a better community and a better society.
I really hope that Belgian citizens will work on better listening and communicating with each other.
During secondary school, I always heard that failure was bad. Failure was no good. I was afraid to fail. So I always had very good grades because I didn’t want to fail. After participating in these programs and listening to people’s stories I noticed that even though people fail in life, they stay positive and keep trying to make our world a better place. So embrace failure!“even though people fail in life, they stay positive and keep trying”