Think back to how you spent time when you were 15 years old. Most of us probably focused on classes, dating, sports and learning to drive. For Plano ISD student Hamza Iqbal, his 15th year marked a commitment to activism and raising awareness about family and domestic violence. That commitment culminated in his recently being awarded the Young Hearts Matter Activist of the Year Award by the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV).
“The first time I was exposed to the issue of domestic violence, my mother had come from a conference with a purple bracelet for me,” Hamza recalled. “When she shared some details and statistics with me, I was shocked, which was immediately followed up with white-hot anger. I still clearly remember my immediate reaction. I was around 13 at the time, and since then I have felt compelled to do something about it.”
According to Hamza’s research, one in three women experience abuse from an intimate partner in their lives, and nearly 1.5 million teenagers nationwide experience abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
When Hamza was 15, he created an online petition on change.org called Millennials Against Domestic Violence. In various events around town, he spoke and shared statistics on the family violence problem; he concluded all of his speeches by asking the boys and men in attendance to take a pledge against domestic violence and to sign his petition. He has spoken at events with crowds of more than 500 people, and he believes his message has reached more than 1,000 households.
“Hamza is motivating male role models of all ages to be visible and vocal advocates for preventing violence and transforming culture,” said Nicole Huryta of TCFV. “He continues working with his peers in public schools to develop programs that aim to shift the culture that upholds violence and abusive cultural dynamics.” His work is, at its core, the work of education and prevention.
When asked what has inspired him to work on behalf of others, Hamza said, “One of the things that’s stressed the most in Islam is that the best of people are those who help others. ‘If you help one man, it’s like you’ve helped all of humanity’ is a well-known teaching of the Prophet Muhammad. I live by that teaching. My faith teaches me that we are born with compassion, and it’s our duty, our responsibility to help people.”
As for the future, Hamza, now 17, has partnered with another Plano ISD student, Nyle Kafeel, and together they have formed a 501(c)3 called Millennials Against Violence. “We want to bring the conversation of domestic violence into the homes of younger people. We want youth to know how common domestic violence really is. We’re going to start opening chapters, clubs in various schools, in universities and in faith communities. We hope to address bullying, dating and intimate partner violence,” Hamza said.
They’ll begin their work at Plano West and Plano East Senior High schools next year, with the desire to continue their efforts as they move on to college.
Hamza Iqbal embodies hope and inspires confidence that his work will make the world safer. “Our generation is going to make a change. You can see that in March for Our Lives. We can really accomplish something. My generation has the power and the drive to make change in the world. We can actually put a stop to violence.”Millennials Against Violence Website >