Art & LiteratureWomen Leaders

Shon Abegaz: Global Change, One Person at a Time

By February 5, 2018 2 Comments

Shon Abegez, CAUX, Caux, Switzerland, volunteering, African American, Initiatives of Change, Forum for Just Governance for Human Security, good governance, stewardshipWe met on a train to Caux, in Switzerland. I looked and smelled plane-wrinkled. She wore black, fine gold earrings, a silk scarf, and a timeless designer handbag.

Shontaye is not a material girl. She also prefers to be called Shon. But as I learned on that train ride through breathtaking Swiss landscapes: Every girl deserves one nice bag!

Shon would become a friend, a mentor, an older sister to me. And the coordinator of the largest international forum for human security.

I would learn that she had always been a traveler; her father was an army man. A man of service who never complained; he made her want to serve too.

That her mother had always believed in giving thanks by paying forward, and raised her on the value of volunteering. That she had married her love and best friend on their only non-working day: a Tuesday. That she loved cream and sugar with her tea. That she loved tea, period. But that day on that train ride we were both still friendly strangers heading the same way.

Shon Abegez, CAUX, Caux, Switzerland, volunteering, African American, Initiatives of Change, Forum for Just Governance for Human Security, good governance, stewardshipTrains, buses and planes took her to Europe, Africa, North America.

To places where to be different was a threat, to be a woman was to be thought inferior, to be African American was to be considered second class.

She met people who did not want to touch her hand because of the color of her skin, but also people who shared the same values and believed difference makes friendships rich.

She realized people are just people, beneath race, religion, gender. That peace is about connection and dialogue, replacing a label with a name.

What if all warring parties could have honest conversations? What if every person could feel safe? What if global change really began with one person changing their mind?

Shon joined Initiatives of Change in the United States in 2004. In 2012, she joined the organizing team for the Forum for Just Governance for Human Security. Human Security is defined as ‘the freedom from fear and want.’ It means everyone has a right to good governance, social and economic inclusion, food security, sustainable living, and healing memory.

Shon Abegez, CAUX, Caux, Switzerland, volunteering, African American, Initiatives of Change, Forum for Just Governance for Human Security, good governance, stewardship

She became the Forum’s Coordinator and Chair of the Executive Committee. Under her stewardship, it has grown from a three-day conference to a six-day event gathering over 300 participants from 52 countries… and counting. They come, as individuals, from the public, private, and civil society sectors to exchange ideas, network, and collaborate. Having brought the speakers, participants, contributors together, Shon steps back, sips her tea, and watches the magic begin.

Shon Abegez, CAUX, Caux, Switzerland, volunteering, African American, Initiatives of Change, Forum for Just Governance for Human Security, good governance, stewardshipFive years after we met, she still wears black, fine gold earrings, a silk scarf. Her elegant handbag completes her look, as does her signature laugh.

With good humor, resilience, she really is changing the world, advancing human security through dialogue. Then in her free time she watches her favorite shows, spends time with friends and family, travels, cooks.

Yara Zgheib

Author Yara Zgheib

Yara is a writer, policy researcher and analyst, and lover of culture, travel, nature, art. She is the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street and blogger behind Aristotle at Afternoon Tea. She has written for The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, The Idea List, A Woman’s Paris, and Holiday Magazine. Wearing her other hat, she consults with governments and the nonprofit sector on peace and security strategies, with an emphasis on conflict resolution, counter terrorism, and countering violent extremism. She is a Fulbright scholar with a PhD in international affairs, who has given courses on human security, but also art history, ballet and etiquette. Yara was born in Lebanon and has since lived in Glasgow, Washington, Paris, Saint Louis, and now Boston. She likes books and smart conversations, early morning yoga, evening walks.

More posts by Yara Zgheib

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Vanessa Adams-Harris says:

    Congratulations Shon!! And thank you Yara for writing such a breautiful piece. It certainly captures Shon’s spirit. We are all so fortunate to have come together at this time to share, learn and move forward all the while making a way. Hope to see you all soon.

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