Franklin D. Roosevelt made an indelible point when he said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” Quintessentially, Roosevelt and Dr. Shafeeq Gharba, belong to the same school of progressive thinkers. The distinguished Dr. Gharba, better known as the founding president of the American University of Kuwait, an eminent author, a columnist as well as professor of political science among many other things, has long been an advocate of democratic reforms in the Middle East. Being a public intellectual, Dr. Gharba not only focused on political issues, but also concerned himself with educational reforms and leadership as the backbone of a strong, democratic nation. His particular interest in social development saw the formation of the Jusoor Arabiya Leadership & Consultancy Center, to which Dr. Gharba currently serves as founding President.
Makboula Yasin, Director of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Center at Jusoor Arabiya, sheds some insight on how they plan to bring about the development of the youth.
“To sum it up in one sentence: building a socially conscious and active community by engaging and empowering the Youth is our vision,” says Makboula. “But they need to be given the skills and qualities that will help them become resourceful leaders of tomorrow, and this is where we come in.”
Makboula, former Executive Director of UPA – a non-political NGO based in Washington – brings to Jusoor 15 years of diverse experience in spearheading youth and community related developmental projects. She, along with Dr. Gharba, created an active, coming-of-age CSR Center, which firmly believes that corporate houses have a major role to play in social, environmental, industrial and consumer policies. The CSR center aims to contribute to sustainable development to enhance Arab potential and competitiveness by augmenting employability of candidates and job creation in the economy.
An approach for CSR that is becoming widely accepted is community-based development projects, such as the Shell Foundation’s involvement in the Flower Valley, in South Africa, where they help educate the community’s children, as well as help adults develop new skills.
“We have collaborated with the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and launched our ace project ‘Youth Leadership Development Initiative’ as part of our CSR activities,” explains Makboula. “This is an investment in Kuwait’s youth and their future.”
The Programme focuses on developing a set of life and leadership skills for participants, allowing them to adopt and cultivate personal projects in alliance with civil society as well as the public and private sectors in Kuwait. Their first workshop was held in July 2009 with fifty Kuwaiti women and men ranging from 18-28 years old, chosen through a rigorous application process. Currently, the programme is open for Kuwaiti Nationals only. “But with the participation of more corporate-houses in our CSR activities, we hope we will have the funds and capacity to extend our workshops to everyone very soon,” adds Makboula.
The weeklong workshop was entirely free of cost and focused on crucial topics like Visionary Leadership. Prominent professionals like Dr. Sajed Al Abdali, Ms. Mona Al-Arfaj, Mr. Mohammad Al-Dallal, Mr. Mishari Al-Humoud, Dr. Ibtihal Al Khateeb, Mr. Khaled Al-Roudan, Ms. Aruna Ladva, Mr. Anas Meerza and Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra volunteered their time and expertise to inspire the young impassioned minds.
One of the goals of this initiative is for the youth to realize themselves and their surroundings thereby actualizing their goals and pursuing them systematically under the private sector’s umbrella and Jusoor’s mentorship.
“Our uniqueness is that we do not stop with the conclusion of the workshops. Instead, once we have shown these young adults the pros and cons, they will continue to remain under our mentorship as we guide them through the process,” equips Makboula, with a gleam in her eyes and excitement in her voice. “Actually,” she muses, “It was a surprising discovery for me too, to see the Kuwaiti youth so keenly interested in social issues.”
The team ensures that the workshop allows students to translate what they learnt into realistic projects ranging from the creation of NGOs to small businesses as per each youth’s goal. Quite interestingly, one project headed by the Media Group in the workshop is to establish a TV Station exclusively run by and for youth. This group will be also appearing on Al Watan and Al Rai TV channels to seek expert support and much-needed institutional funding.
Yet, that is not all. Participants also have the opportunity to travel and participate in regional conferences and meetings that further contribute in enhancing their skills and widening their knowledge. Two groups have recently attended a conference in Jordon with 35 other countries, while another group of participants were sent to Beirut to attend The Youth Café organized by the Arab Thought Foundation (FIKR 8), attended by 65 students from the Middle East. In December, a FIKR 8 Conference will be held in Kuwait to debate the economic dynamics of the region and their impact on other spheres of life. These multifaceted events will allow young adults in Kuwait to engage with international communities on global issues.
“A question mark hovers over the importance of the availability of a futuristic vision to explain the nature of Kuwait. Some people ignore this question as if a bright and positive future is guaranteed,” Dr. Gharba once wrote in one of his columns for the Al Rai daily. “The future will be full of surprises, if our visions and plans are not properly implemented. The ability to face surprises in the future requires hard work. Everything that we do at present must be linked to what we should achieve in future.” (Excerpts from Al Rai daily)
Sharing Dr. Gharba’s view, Makboula adds, “We hope more local companies will become a part of this initiative by proactively contributing to the growth and advancement of our youth.”