Mentor Arabia spreads drug prevention message in Kuwait
Developing healthy and positive lifestyles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.