Activists Faisal Al Fuhaid and Leanah Al Awadhi are a dynamite package – and it is not just because of their age – but rather, for the task they have taken upon themselves, when they could have savored the carefree-ness that is a privilege of youth. Instead, they spend time talking about political issues, planning events that advocate equality, and finding ways to inspire the country’s young bloodline in becoming socially responsible citizens whom they call Q-Heroes. When I met the duo at the P2BK 2012 Expo for this interview, two things were evident – firstly, they truly believed in being the change they wanted to see in their community; and secondly, their dedication to social causes that were widely prevalent, but hardly talked about.
Faisal and Leanah are the bold initiators of EQUAIT – a youth-driven organization with an objective to promote social equality and human rights through social media and public events in Kuwait – taking on evils like bullying and discrimination. It started out as a blog, less than a year ago, rapidly gaining momentum among the youth of Kuwait, and manifesting into an organization of seven active members and two successful events already held under their masthead.
With a face that is at once youthful and wise, 18 year old Faisal is currently pursing a major in Computer Science, while Leanah is still a senior in high school! Sitting across the table from them at Mishref Fairgrounds, I was mentally shaking my head, as we so-called ‘experienced’ adults are prone to do. But oblivious to my skepticism, the two youngsters plunged into their story, speaking passionately about what they believed and what they wanted to do for the next-Generation of Kuwaitis.
Faisal, also an active member in the Kuwaiti division of the British Council-sponsored Global Changemakers program since 2009, founded EQUAIT in August 2011. If you think, he is just a fortunate product of an oil-rich Kingdom having supportive parents or whose youthful enthusiasm is based on empty idealism – think again! Apparently, Faisal was bullied relentlessly while growing up, which in his own words he describes as being a ‘terrible feeling’. But instead of playing the victim, he decided to do something about it.
Their very first event, ‘Pink Friday: Anti-Bullying Walkathon’, was held in December 2011 and will continue to be their annual event. Last year, supporters of the cause turned up dressed in pink at Scientific Center and thereon marched to Marina Waves and back. As it turns out, pink is not only the colour for breast cancer awareness, but also the international colour for anti-bullying initiatives (It has a story of it’s own that started in Canada).
The walkathon was followed by the ‘iRespect Football Tournament’ held in February this year, with teams from four private English schools, SKELPS Soccer School and Everton Soccer School participating in a friendly tournament on GUST’s sports field.
On his activism, Faisal writes on EQUAIT’s website: “People, who use religion, race, gender, sexuality and country of origin as an excuse for belittling their peers or disliking them, are just too ignorant to look beyond the surface of who they are. As clichéd as this may sound, I believe that we are created as equals to one another and I harbor great disrespect for people that simply choose to see the world in black or white.”
EQUAIT’s co-founder, Leanah Al Awadhi on the other hand is an ‘inside-out’ beautiful person. This bubbly young Kuwaiti, who has probably inherited her mother’s Colombian brand of beauty, had her minute of reckoning while living in Colombia. During her two years there, Leanah did community service with the Red Cross Foundation and participated in Model United Nations – both of which influenced her interest in social issues. Deeply moved, she returned to Kuwait and found her answer with EQUAIT. “I find discrimination, hypocrisy and egoism deeply repellent,” emphasized Leanah, who encountered her own share of indifference when she joined forces with Faisal. “I believe that without those three things, our society would undoubtedly be different, as a family regardless of family name, religion, race, sex, and colour.”
“I have been ridiculed by cousins and peers for being involved in social activism, telling me I was wasting my time, and should rather be doing things other Kuwaiti girls do,” Leanah reveals laughingly, but none of it managed to deter the youngster from her path.
Faisal and Leanah run a tight ship when it comes to enlisting new members in EQUAIT or in choosing Q-Heroes. Members interested in associating themselves with EQUAIT are interviewed meticulously to ensure a dedicated team that shares similar visions and beliefs. “We need serious change-makers, youngsters who realize their potential,” Faisal explained, revealing a no-nonsense attitude.
Recently, they organized a food drive called ‘iGIVE’, where they distributed Iftar meals to underprivileged workers all across Kuwait during Ramadan and backed the goodwill gesture by distributing Eideeye (gift money) during Eid. “They deserved it for working in the sun for very little pay!” remarks Faisal, adding, “We were glad with the results and hope to repeat it in the future!”
Next, they plan to host an ‘EQUAIT Model United Nations (EQUMUN)’ conference in the first quarter of 2013.
EQUAIT crew is currently planning – what they call – a series of short videos highlighting and finding solutions for the social issues around Kuwait. “I have been told by a lot of people to not go ahead with it, and understandably so,” commented Faisal on the project. “It hasn’t been easy, we are way behind schedule, but I won’t give up.” They will commence filming this December and will feature a surprise guest in its first promo video.
As Faisal puts it in his matter-of-fact way with the shrug of his shoulders, “Nothing is impossible.”
Upcoming Event: ‘Pink Friday: Anti-Bully Walkathon’ will be held on 16th November this year. Check their website equait.org for details. For more, log on to equait.org or follow them on Twitter @equait.
You can also email them at [email protected].