by Asra Arshad
Rightfully deemed ‘Young Davos’ by CNN, the One Young World (OYW) Summit is by far the largest gathering of young, socially-committed individuals with leadership ambition. The OYW Summit 2012 in Pittsburgh, USA spanned a period of 6 days and played host to over 1,200 delegates from 180 countries, ranking second in the number of countries represented after the Olympics. The State of Kuwait was represented by one of the country’s leading young social advocates, Hiba Arshad, who has for the past few years made the rounds with her ‘I AM CHALLENGE’ movement. Hiba was unanimously selected to represent Kuwait by the One Young World panel which also decided to offer her a full-fledged sponsorship as part of their initiative to bring forward youth from 100 of the ‘least represented countries of the world’.
The summit was highlighted by the world’s most impactful luminaries, such as Former President Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who gave instructive talks on ways to improve the world and combat pressing issues in the areas of environment, interfaith dialogue, media, global health and international politics. Upon striking an intellectual exchange with Jamie Oliver, Britain’s celebrated chef and media personality, Hiba discussed with him the plaguing issue of disproportionate fast food consumption in the Middle East. She, along with fellow advocates, devised solutions to tackle the topic of cheap and readily available fast food options and educating the public on the divine benefits of healthy eating and living. On another occasion during the Summit, she was invited to a light-hearted dinner with The Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.)- Pittsburgh Division.
As Hiba’s activism predominantly centres on environmental sustainability, the young representative of Kuwait was given the remarkable opportunity to chair an environmental debate entitled “Should environmental protection be given priority over economic development”. Judging her experience and dexterity in providing solutions to global environmental problems, she was picked as a moderator for the debate which dealt with hard-hitting facts and subversive opinions of whether economic development should be given priority over sustainability and vice versa. When asked what understanding or ‘know-how’ was gained from moderating the contested debate, Hiba replied, “It was a great feeling leaving the debate hall with a stretched mind and taking into account everyone’s opinions. For a young girl from Maldives, environmental sustainability may be the most crucial of issues on the agenda; conversely an activist from South Africa could argue that economic development and racism should be tackled first before seeking strides towards a greener future. Understanding the fact that issues are multi-faceted is the key here”.
A young woman with versatile concerns and aspirations, Hiba also focused a large part of her attention on the issue of women and literacy at the OYW summit. In Pittsburgh, she had the opportunity to visit an NGO which facilitates women from impoverished backgrounds attaining further education. She spoke to several women beneficiaries of the NGO about the importance of education in their lives and how their lives changed after obtaining sound academic qualification.
The OYW summit gave Hiba Arshad an opportunity to stand for Kuwait, deemed as one of the least represented countries in the world. “Although there are pockets of socially-committed individuals in the region, there is more that needs to be done. More youth need to become involved in their communities and come forward with their leadership capabilities because we have a wealth of potential in Kuwait and the neighbouring states”. A pertinent message that was resonated in the OYW Summit is that ‘Sometimes, youth and ignorance are a good thing’. Idealism more often than not, paves a way for change and youth in the Middle East should strive to acknowledge their power and work their way towards real change similar to the 19-year-old hopeful Hiba Arshad, a promising beacon for Kuwait.