Men­tor Ara­bia spreads drug pre­ven­tion mes­sage in Kuwait

De­vel­op­ing healthy and pos­i­tive life­styles

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - By Faten Omar

KUWAIT: Pre­vent­ing drug abuse is one of the best in­vest­ments in any coun­try’s fu­ture. Ad­dic­tion is very com­mon nowa­days, es­pe­cially when it’s related to al­co­hol and drugs among youth. Men­tor Ara­bia gives an im­por­tant mes­sage about drug pre­ven­tion and pro­vides an en­gag­ing and cre­ative way for youth to ex­press them­selves with re­gards to this is­sue. It also helps in­flu­ence their peers to de­velop healthy and pos­i­tive life­styles.

Kuwait Times spoke with Bechara Ghaoui, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Fundrais­ing As­so­ciate at Men­tor Ara­bia, to learn more about the or­ga­ni­za­tion and its goals. Kuwait Times: Tell us more about Men­tor Ara­bia.

Ghaoui: Men­tor Ara­bia is a re­gional non­govern­men­tal foun­da­tion that ad­vo­cates for chil­dren and youth em­pow­er­ment to­wards pre­ven­tion from risky be­hav­iors and drugs. The foun­da­tion is a re­gional mem­ber of Men­tor In­ter­na­tional, which was founded in 1994 and presided by Queen Sylvia of Swe­den.

Men­tor Ara­bia was es­tab­lished in response to the rec­om­men­da­tions of an Arab and in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tific fo­rum which took place in Dubai in 2004. The fo­rum called for the es­tab­lish­ment of an Arab in­sti­tu­tion that would con­trib­ute to sup­port­ing and strength­en­ing ef­forts aimed at re­pelling the spread of the drugs phe­nom­e­non.

Goals

KT: What are your goals?

Ghaoui: The goals of Men­tor Ara­bia are: Build­ing the ca­pac­i­ties of chil­dren, youth, par­ents and other ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

De­velop poli­cies and strate­gies for chil­dren and youth em­pow­er­ment.

Pro­mote youth par­tic­i­pa­tion in all ar­eas of so­cial work and hu­man devel­op­ment.

De­velop and dis­sem­i­nate pre­ven­tion and youth em­pow­er­ment stud­ies and re­search.

Forge part­ner­ships and spread aware­ness through me­dia and so­cial me­dia chan­nels.

KT: What is your most sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment in the Mid­dle East?

Ghaoui: Per­haps Men­tor Ara­bia’s most sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment in the Mid­dle East has been bring­ing to­gether mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers to the ta­ble to set stan­dards for chil­dren and youth em­pow­er­ment and the pre­ven­tion of risky be­hav­iors. Men­tor Ara­bia has also suc­cess­fully brought the is­sue of drug pre­ven­tion to the fore­front of na­tional and re­gional agen­das, ini­ti­at­ing and main­tain­ing dis­course at the re­gional level while strength­en­ing joint Arab and in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Men­tor Ara­bia has suc­cess­fully in­tro­duced ev­i­dence-based pre­ven­tion pro­grams to the Arab world, which have been adapted and con­tex­tu­al­ized to suit the lo­cal con­text. The foun­da­tion also serves as a knowl­edge provider for re­search and best prac­tices, and over­all rep­re­sent­ing a re­gional um­brella, bring­ing to­gether all ac­tors in the field of child and youth em­pow­er­ment. Although there is al­ways more work to be done, it is safe to say that Men­tor Ara­bia has built strong and solid al­liances to ac­cel­er­ate the mo­men­tum in halt­ing the spread of this dan­ger­ous phe­nom­e­non.

KT: What is the role of Men­tor Ara­bia in pro­mot­ing health and re­duc­ing the in­ci­dence of drug abuse among youth in Kuwait?

Ghaoui: Men­tor Ara­bia has part­nered with the Na­tional Anti-Drugs Me­dia Project in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Min­istry of State for Youth Af­fairs to im­ple­ment a Youth Peer Ed­u­ca­tion (YPE) pro­gram at the na­tional level through­out Kuwait. The ob­jec­tive of this pro­gram is to em­power a net­work of young peer ed­u­ca­tors aged 15 to 24 years old with the nec­es­sary life skills to help them raise aware­ness among their peers on drug pre­ven­tion top­ics through in­ter­ac­tive tech­niques.

Chil­dren and ado­les­cents have also been in­volved in drug use pre­ven­tion ef­forts in Kuwait. Also, in part­ner­ship with the Na­tional Anti-Drugs Me­dia Project and un­der the pa­tron­age of the min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion, a draw­ing com­pe­ti­tion was launched in Oc­to­ber among schools through­out the coun­try where stu­dents aged 9-14 were asked to ex­press them­selves ar­tis­ti­cally around the topic of the dan­gers of drugs and other risky be­hav­iors. This will be fol­lowed by an exhibition of se­lected draw­ings. Th­ese two pro­grams are unique and have proven to be suc­cess­ful in many other coun­tries.

Strate­gies

KT: What are the key strate­gies to elim­i­nate drugs from so­ci­ety?

Ghaoui: Tra­di­tional pre­ven­tive mea­sures have uti­lized fear tac­tics for drug pre­ven­tion. Re­search has shown that th­ese ef­forts have of­ten been in­ef­fec­tive and even had ad­verse re­ac­tions in some cases. With the ad­vance­ment of drugs pre­ven­tion re­search, the use of ev­i­dence based “life skills” pro­grams, the in­clu­sion of youth, and uti­liz­ing so­cial me­dia as a chan­nel for pre­ven­tion have all been shown to be key strate­gies in em­pow­er­ing youth with the knowl­edge and skills that en­able them to make pos­i­tive choices and avoid risky be­hav­iors. Ad­di­tion­ally, the in­volve­ment of all seg­ments of the com­mu­nity and the pro­vi­sion of safe and se­cure en­vi­ron­ments for our chil­dren and youth are vi­tal to the suc­cess of any strat­egy.

KT: There are a lot of drugs that are used by peo­ple and many new drugs have also been for­mu­lated. What class of peo­ple gen­er­ally abuse drugs?

Ghaoui: The drug phe­nom­e­non is one that can reach any per­son, es­pe­cially those who are vul­ner­a­ble, see­ing as they lack the ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port sys­tems that would en­able them to make healthy choices. Drug use and abuse are pub­lic health prob­lems that af­fect all peo­ple re­gard­less of age, gen­der, eth­nic­ity, re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion or so­cioe­co­nomic class. Younger peo­ple and those who lack ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion are con­sid­ered es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble as they are more prone to us­ing drugs.

KT: Are there new ways of traf­fick­ing drugs? What steps are be­ing taken by Men­tor? Ghaoui: Drug traf­fick­ers are con­stantly de­vel­op­ing new and in­no­va­tive ways to bring drugs into our com­mu­ni­ties. While the bat­tle to elim­i­nate drug traf­fick­ing is led by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional drug con­trol and law en­force­ment agen­cies, Men­tor Ara­bia’s role is to em­power youth to make healthy choices and re­sist drugs. We view that in de­creas­ing the de­mand for drugs, we would be con­tribut­ing to tack­ling the prob­lem of drug traf­fick­ing.

Par­ents

KT: What is the role of par­ents and teach­ers in cre­at­ing a drug-free so­ci­ety? How ef­fec­tive is it compared to en­force­ment work? Ghaoui: Within the “life skills” ap­proach in drugs use pre­ven­tion, the role of par­ents and teach­ers is es­sen­tial, not only be­cause they are cru­cial mem­bers of a young per­son’s sup­port net­work, but also since they rep­re­sent the en­try points for many ef­fec­tive pre­ven­tion pro­grams, be it at home or at school. The work of par­ents and teach­ers and the com­mu­nity at large is seen as com­ple­men­tary to that of en­force­ment and con­trol.

KT: Tell us more about your char­ity din­ner in Kuwait to bat­tle drug abuse.

Ghaoui: Men­tor Ara­bia faces a mon­u­men­tal task in try­ing to halt the spread of this fast grow­ing and deadly phe­nom­e­non in the Arab re­gion. This task can­not be achieved alone; it re­quires the help and co­op­er­a­tion of var­i­ous par­ties, such as gov­ern­men­tal and non-gov­ern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions, ex­perts, ed­u­ca­tors, par­ents, re­li­gious lead­ers, busi­nesses, me­dia and many more.

Un­der the aus­pices of HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber AlSabah, and in the pres­ence of Her Majesty Queen Sylvia of Swe­den, Pres­i­dent of Men­tor In­ter­na­tional, and Prince Turki bin Talal bin Ab­dul Aziz, Chair­man of Men­tor Ara­bia, a gala din­ner will be took place re­cently. The din­ner was hosted by Mr Faisal Al-Mutawa, Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man of Ali Ab­dul­wa­hab Al-Mutawa Co and the vicechair­man of Men­tor Ara­bia. It was also at­tended by a num­ber of roy­als, board mem­bers of Men­tor Ara­bia and Men­tor In­ter­na­tional, as well as busi­ness­peo­ple, NGOs, par­ents, ex­perts, youth and me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Through this event, Men­tor Ara­bia hopes to raise more aware­ness on the dan­gers of drug use and the im­por­tance of pre­ven­tion to widen its strate­gic part­ner­ship in Kuwait in or­der to im­ple­ment the nu­mer­ous projects and pro­grams it is cur­rently en­gaged in.

KT: Is there joint co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Men­tor and pri­vate or gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions? Ghaoui: One of Men­tor Ara­bia’s prin­ci­ple mis­sions is to build the ca­pac­ity of na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions, whether pri­vate, gov­ern­men­tal, or non-gov­ern­men­tal, to adopt and carry out drug pre­ven­tion pro­grams at the na­tional level. In­stead of per­pet­u­at­ing de­pen­den­cies, Men­tor Ara­bia works to ca­pac­i­tate in­sti­tu­tions and cre­ate sus­tain­abil­ity in drug pre­ven­tion by forg­ing strong part­ner­ships with solid and ac­tive na­tional en­ti­ties on the ground.

Plans

KT: What are your fu­ture plans? Ghaoui: Men­tor Ara­bia is cur­rently in the process of de­sign­ing its up­com­ing strat­egy for 2017-2020, which will be geared to­ward scal­ing up its pro­grams for a wider reach and a wider net­work of part­ner­ship and co­op­er­a­tion. The foun­da­tion will also be look­ing to­wards be­com­ing a re­gional in­for­ma­tion and re­sources cen­ter, rich in an­a­lyt­i­cal data, stud­ies, cur­ric­ula and re­search on drugs and drug pre­ven­tion in the Arab world, which would be able to pro­vide much needed in­for­ma­tion for any­one in­ter­ested in this field. Fur­ther­more, Men­tor Ara­bia is work­ing to­ward de­vel­op­ing the first re­gional report on drug pre­ven­tion and build­ing an Arab al­liance to face this prob­lem. KT: What is your mes­sage to the peo­ple?

Ghaoui: We en­vi­sion a drugs-free Arab world where chil­dren and youth are given the op­por­tu­ni­ties to lead healthy lives. The fight against drugs is a long and ex­tremely dif­fi­cult one. There is so much that is needed to be done and we must all get to­gether and work to­gether. Through solid and col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ships with gov­ern­ment and civil in­sti­tu­tions, and by work­ing closely on the ground with par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors, chil­dren, youth, and with the sup­port of the me­dia, we can re­pel the spread of the drugs phe­nom­e­non in the Arab world. It will take time, but if we work to­gether, hand in hand, we will suc­ceed in pro­tect­ing our chil­dren and youth and in de­vel­op­ing our com­mu­ni­ties.

Bechara Ghaoui

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