Words really can heal the world
Chevening Alumna Beatriz Buarque wins the Luxembourg Peace Prize for her work in combatting online extremism. Read her story.
The idea for Words Heal the World was born in 2015. The jihadist group ISIS were using sophisticated digital tools and discursive strategies to recruit thousands of vulnerable people. They were using words as weapons. As a journalist, it was this that motivated me to take action.
What is Words Heal the World?
Words Heal the World is a tool to empower young people to use digital media to deconstruct extremist narratives. Through partnerships with universities, we empower young people to use their skills to engage responsibly with digital media platforms and cultivate critical thinking of what they see online.
Most people tend to associate extremism with political radical ideologies. At Words Heal the World, we consider extremism to mean every belief that incites hostile action towards a group based on its ethnicity, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or origin.
What have you achieved?
Our work against hate speech and extremism has been recognised by the Luxembourg Peace Prize. This is possibly my proudest achievement.
I’m not the only Chevener involved in Words Heal the World! It has been wonderful to work with a fellow Chevening Alumnus, James Gatica, who is the director of our Latin America division.
We have produced documentaries, organised events, published dozens of articles, and developed social media campaigns in support of students committed to tackling all types of extremism. Our report, Hate Map of Brazil, is aimed at encouraging local action against hate crimes in Brazil. The students who are part of Words Heal the World have already shown great potential in leading change.
Together, this activity is supporting students to develop strategies to tackle different types of extremism.
What is your biggest challenge going forward?
Today, the threat posed by far-right ideologies is much more serious than threats posed by extremist groups like ISIS. Far-right groups encourage hate towards far more diverse groups of people in ever more sophisticated ways. They know how to reach ever greater numbers of people across digital media platforms, and reach vulnerable people to persuade them of their views, despite regulations to restrain hate speech.
Attracting sponsors to fund our work will be critical in combatting this threat.
With funding, we’ll be able to build bridges between universities and high schools, to educate students from a younger age about hate speech and responsibly challenging the views they may come across online. We can recruit more students in the UK and scale-up our campaigns.
Together, we can effectively heal the world. Here at Words Heal the World, we are a family and we are ready to embark on this journey towards a peaceful society!