Qatar Today - - AFFAIRS DOHA DIARY -

Every year, Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) hosts EM­POWER, a youth-led con­fer­ence which brings to­gether hun­dreds of pas­sion­ate young peo­ple from Qatar, the re­gion and around the world to voice their opin­ions on press­ing is­sues that di­rectly af­fect them. As the only youth­led con­fer­ence of its kind, EM­POWER has de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing the only con­fer­ence that truly rep­re­sents the voice of our fu­ture lead­ers. The three-day gather­ing en­cour­ages young peo­ple in Qatar to as­sume ac­tive roles in build­ing their com­mu­ni­ties, learn and en­gage in ROTA's youth de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, and take a stand on global is­sues. For Sahar Al An­sari, Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity in Qatar ( VCUQatar) and ROTA Youth Ad­vi­sory Board mem­ber and am­bas­sador, the con­fer­ence has helped shape her world view and has in­stilled in her the lead­er­ship skills she never knew she had and con­nected her to youth from across the globe.

How did you first come to know about EM­POWER and how did you get in­volved?

I first got in­volved with ROTA at the age of 15 when I signed up to take part in their lead­er­ship train­ing pro­gramme. That was a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me; es­pe­cially be­ing a mid­dle child, I had never re­ally as­sumed a lead­er­ship role be­fore. The pro­gramme nur­tured and honed my lead­er­ship skills in a very or­ganic way. I came to know about ROTA's EM­POWER Con­fer­ence while I was in Wash­ing­ton D.C . at­tend­ing a Na­tional Youth Con­fer­ence. It was there that I met mem­bers of ROTA's

Youth Ad­vi­sory Board who were rais­ing aware­ness about EM­POWER and I saw the in­spir­ing work they were do­ing and was truly mo­ti­vated to get in­volved. Upon my re­turn to Qatar, I be­came a ROTA Youth Ad­vi­sory Board mem­ber and it's been an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney thus far.

What does your role as a ROTA Youth Ad­vi­sory Board mem­ber en­tail?

From A–Z, the con­fer­ence is cre­ated by youth, for youth and that for me is in­cred­i­bly mean­ing­ful. As a mem­ber of ROTA's Youth Ad­vi­sory Board, my role is very hand­son and my opin­ions and de­ci­sions are re­spected and val­ued. I am in­volved in var­i­ous su­per­vi­sory and or­gan­i­sa­tional as­pects such as de­cid­ing on the speak­ers who will be in­vited to talk at EM­POWER, as well as the var­i­ous work­shops, sem­i­nars and panel dis­cus­sions. Be­sides our col­lec­tive de­ci­sion-mak­ing as mem­bers, in­di­vid­u­ally, we are each re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing a spe­cific area, e.g., de­sign, plan­ning, out­reach, etc.

Why is it so im­por­tant for ini­tia­tives such as EM­POWER to cham­pion for youth in­clu­sion in global mat­ters?

It's vi­tal that youth have a say in the mat­ters and is­sues that di­rectly af­fect them. EM­POWER tar­gets is­sues fac­ing youth, not only here in Qatar, but in the re­gion and across the globe, too. The con­fer­ence is ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing a plat­form for youth to voice their opin­ions on is­sues they are fac­ing and to come to­gether to work to­wards con­struc­tive solutions. Fur­ther­more, the con­fer­ence aims at bring­ing about greater un­der­stand­ing on so­cial is­sues, con­cepts and cur­rent af­fairs in a way that is re­lat­able to youth. Since all the pan­els are led by youth, youth at­ten­dees are able to re­late bet­ter and are more in­spired to turn a chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tion into a pos­i­tive one.

Can you elab­o­rate on the theme of this year’s EM­POWER – "Sus­tain­able Tourism for De­vel­op­ment: A Youth Per­spec­tive"?

This year's topic is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant to Qatar since it is a coun­try made up of such a di­verse wider com­mu­nity that tends to travel quite of­ten. Through this year's theme we aim at pro­mot­ing and rais­ing aware­ness about sus­tain­able tourism among youth in Qatar. We want to demon­strate how even the small­est change in travel be­hav­iour can pre­serve the en­vi­ron­ment. For ex­am­ple, less lug­gage means lighter planes, which use less fuel. It is lit­tle changes like these that make a big dif­fer­ence. Also, so many young peo­ple in Qatar use Snapchat to doc­u­ment their trav­els, thus we want to demon­strate how they can pro­mote sus­tain­able tourism to their so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers and use var­i­ous plat­forms to es­tab­lish a mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion that serves to ed­u­cate youth on sus­tain­abil­ity in tourism.

How has your in­volve­ment with ROTA im­pacted your life?

It has had a huge im­pact on life in so many ways. It has re­ally taught me about the power of con­nec­tion and why a sense of com­mu­nity is so im­por­tant. Thanks to my in­volve­ment with ROTA, I have es­tab­lished mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with youth from all over the world. To­gether we are able to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively and for­mu­late solutions to ma­jor is­sues fac­ing us to­day, by form­ing a united front that will serve to en­hance our roles as em­pow­ered lead­ers of to­mor­row.

Talk us through the pur­pose of the ROTA Youth Ser­vice Clubs.

Each year, the var­i­ous youth ser­vice clubs bring some in­cred­i­ble ini­tia­tives to life. Lead­ing up to EM­POWER, stu­dents un­dergo six weeks of train­ing be­fore they are asked to come up with a so­cial de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tive that will make a pos­i­tive im­pact in their com­mu­nity. ROTA then se­lects the top projects, and win­ning teams are given the op­por­tu­nity to present them to the youth at­tend­ing EM­POWER. It's in­cred­i­ble to see what the lo­cal youth is ca­pa­ble of – we have so much tal­ent among us here in Qatar and the con­fer­ence pro­vides a plat­form for us to show­case our in­no­va­tive ideas.

What would your ad­vice be to youth in Qatar?

Don't be afraid to break out of your com­fort zone. It's so im­por­tant to try new things and to get in­volved in or­gan­i­sa­tions that are tack­ling is­sues that af­fect and mat­ter to you. One thing I have learnt is to al­ways em­brace every op­por­tu­nity that comes your way. I am thank­ful to ROTA as it has changed my life in ways I never ex­pected and has opened so many doors for me. Grad­u­ates who are in­volved in ROTA's youth de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme tend to have a com­pet­i­tive advantage over their peers since they have al­ready been ex­posed to pro­fes­sional real-life ex­pe­ri­ences, which means they are more sought-af­ter in the job mar­ket

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