We featured Hiba Arshad in last month’s ‘In The Green’ feature and were so impressed by this 18-year-old social activist, we just had to ask her a few more questions.
Did you really wear the same t-shirt for a year?
I had many different colored t-shirts with ‘i am hiba’ printed on the front. So I didn’t wear the exact same shirt for a year, I rotated between colors! But, I did commit myself to wearing the same type of shirt for a year.
Wearing the same type of shirt for an entire year is an unprecedented challenge for any teenager living in the 21st century, particularly in a country like Kuwait where brand-consciousness is almost contagious. However, the motive behind this challenge is what inspired me and a number of youngsters in Kuwait to take up the challenge.
The purpose behind wearing the same type of shirt for an entire year, everywhere we go, is simple. To show a united stand against the cycle of materialism that exists amongst teenagers, to empower the youth, to spend a year not caring about what we wear or our image, and instead think about issues larger than ourselves!
Tell us about the Global Youth Summit you attended in 2010.
In 2010 I was one of 60 youth activists chosen from around the world to participate in the Global Youth Summit held in London, UK. This summit is organized by the Global Changemakers, an initiative run by the British Council. Each year, at the Global Youth Summit, youth activists from around the world come together to share ideas and solutions to the most pressing issues in today’s world. They also work together in organizing and implementing projects which address these issues in each of their local communities.
This was by far the most incredible experience of my life and I got the chance to meet some of the most inspiring individuals. It was here that I met Dan Cullum, a student at the University of Auckland, who initiated the ‘I AM Challenge’ youth movement in New Zealand.
What was the ‘I AM’ Recycling exhibition all about?
Realizing that Kuwait is the 3rd most polluted country in the world, the ‘I AM Challenge-Kuwait’ team decided to do something about it. In the summer of 2011, a few of the participants taking up the challenge collected old t-shirts and jeans and with the help of a tailor converted them into new items such as trendy laptop bags, handbags and pillow covers. The purpose of this was to spread awareness of how things that we’d normally throw away can be reused, reduced and recycled into such useful items. These items made from recycled materials were then put on display and sale at the ‘I AM Recycling’ exhibition held at The British School of Kuwait. The money raised from the sale of the items was then donated by the ‘I AM Challenge-Kuwait’ team to the famine relief efforts in the Horn of Africa.
If you had the power to change one thing in Kuwait what would it be?
If I had the power to change one thing in Kuwait it would be the ‘climate fatigue’ that exists among the people. At present, the mindset of the people towards environmental issues is very passive and nonchalant, when in fact these issues are the ones that require serious attention.
What campaign is currently getting the activist inside you all fired up?
Human Rights issues are often the ones that get the activist side in me fired up the most. In particular, it would be that of women’s rights. Even in today’s society, in several countries, women are not given the same rights as men, and not just as a woman, but as a human being – I find this unacceptable. In my future projects I hope to work towards providing women in less developed nations equal access to education, as I believe education is the best tool for empowerment.
What does the future hold for Hiba Arshad?
This September, I’ll be moving to England to pursue my higher education at the University of Nottingham where I will be studying Chemical and Environmental engineering. I want to relay my passion for environmental preservation in my career so that it becomes part of my everyday life.
I intend on keeping social activism as an integral part of my life as I am a strong believer that power lies with the people. A personal dream of mine is to one day climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with my sister to raise money for a charitable cause, although it would probably take some serious convincing of my parents!
What would you like to say to the youth of Kuwait?
My message to the youngsters in Kuwait would be that, never for a second think that we need to be an adult or in a position of power to make a difference. As youngsters, we can very well achieve anything if we set our minds to it. Passion and determination are enough to bring about a positive change in society.
‘I AM Challenge-Kuwait’ has now entered its second year with a newer and larger team with over 20 teenagers taking up the challenge!