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Conscious Community Building: Getting to Know Alia Schwelling



Bringing people together that have a vision for a better society and creating an exchange amongst individuals with varying opinions are just a few goals of Humanity in Action Germany Program Director Alia Schwelling [until December 2019]. She believes that putting ideas into practice and fostering solidarity between communities are two of the most important ways we can move forward in social justice and human rights.

Through her own background as well as her focus on migration, racism and diasporas throughout both her BA and MA, understanding the struggles and goals of minorities in Europe and worldwide is very important to her. She worked with refugee communities in Germany and Europe in the past and was an active student, organising on issues around, but not confined to, her university campuses. Each of these positions has given Alia insight into how racism often intersects with other forms of state oppression and how empowering marginalised communities is the key to creating a better vision for society.

Alia started her engagement with Humanity in Action as a Fellow in Sarajevo in 2017. For her Action Project, she worked with Senior Fellow Yasar Ohle to organise two empowerment workshops for Black and Minority Ethnic students at SOAS, University of London in order to bring into question the continuities of the school’s colonial past. This is very important to Alia as she often felt a lack of empowerment as a young student from a minority and working-class background. Bringing awareness to how different structures of oppression affect people from marginalised backgrounds is something that Alia hopes to do in order to educate other young people. Alia feels empowered working for Humanity in Action because it provides her with the opportunity to work with colleagues and fellows who have a bigger vision for their future and that of society.

“[I am] not happy thinking only about myself, because of where I come from and the positions, I hold in society do not allow me to ignore these things [discrimination]”.

Seeing the daily injustice around the world, Alia says she is stirred to action, “[I am] not happy thinking only about myself, because of where I come from I feel a responsibility to use the privileges I acquired through my education in order to challenge this injustice”. It angers her to see the detrimental effects of growing inequalities on people’s lives in Germany and across the globe. Alia sees Humanity in Action remaining dynamic and changing in the future to adapt and “respond to challenges we face, our organization cannot stay the same because it engages with societal problems that change and thus challenge us”.


This text was written by our 2019 spring intern Jacqueline Kolhof who also conducted the interview that informed this piece.