Waikato University Law student attended world heritage committee session in Poland

University of Waikato Law student Shaymaa Arif is no stranger to tackling some big global issues.

In 2015 she was nominated for the Woman of Influence Award for her strong community involvement.

At just 13 years old, Shaymaa joined her first human rights protest and subsequently sat on the Human Rights Council for the Abu Dhabi Model United Nations.

Now in 2017, Shaymaa flew across the globe to attend the World Heritage Committee session in Krakow, Poland. Shaymaa travelled to Poland from the 2nd of July to the 12th with a New Zealand youth Delegation of 8 organised by 'The Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institution'.

Over the course of 10 days they witnessed the negotiation and debates on the protection and preservation of worldwide heritage sites. They had the opportunity to witness International Law being negotiated and created. Shaymaa, who is originally of Iraqi and Syrian descent, is very passionate about the preservation and conservation of heritage sites. 'Heritage sites are a part of your culture' she says. "In Syria half of our heritage has already been destroyed".

Shaymaa believes more importance should be placed on protecting heritage sites, so that many countries and cultures around the world, especially in conflict zones, do not lose these important sites like both Syria and Iraq.

"People have huge ties, emotional ties, to sites, it can be a part of peoples identity's" says Shaymaa. "Protection of these sites is important, heritage sites are directly linked to our identities and histories as a nation, if you destroy our heritage, you destroy a portion of our identity".

Shaymaa also believes that there are many youth who have left or never visited their homelands for one reason or another but still feel a strong connection between their heritage and identities and intends on creating a project in the future bringing together the stories of youth from different backgrounds and walks of life in Aotearoa and their aspirations to rebuild and bring hope.

To find out more about Shaymaa’s trip to the World Heritage Committee session check out her blog posts here: