In the week that marked International Youth Day, young people from the Qatar Foundation community reveal what they want to see the world become – and their concerns about the path it may take.
The vital voices of young people throughout the world have been celebrated this week through International Youth Day – a date in the calendar that highlights how youth must be part of discussions and decisions that can shape the future.
In 2020, the theme of International Youth Day – first endorsed by the United Nations 21 years ago – has been ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’, highlighting how the views, perspectives, and participation of young people benefit political, economic, and social life. It has demonstrated how a generation of aspiring change-makers have their big hopes for how global society will progress from here, but also their big fears.
Young people who are part of the Qatar Foundation community are among them, and in a week that placed youth firmly in the spotlight, they have had their say on what they believe are the reasons to be both optimistic and concerned about the future, and how they feel they can contribute to building a better world.
Neeha Rashid, a sophomore student at QF partner university Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), is pursuing a degree in Media Industries and Technology. She has also launched her own business venture, Ink Blot, where she sells hand-painted shoes and notebooks in her home country, Pakistan, and now in Qatar.
And she says: “Standing at the door of adulthood in 2020 brings with its own share of excitement and anxiety. As we carve our way through these unprecedented times, it has created both fears and hopes.
As a community, we have learned to be resilient, and I am hopeful to find innovative, bigger, and better opportunities to excel and to serve
“I am more hopeful for the future today than I ever was before. As a community, we have learned to be resilient, and I am hopeful to find innovative, bigger, and better opportunities to excel and to serve.
“While the youth of today, including me, fear debt, uncertainty, and internship prospects, as well as shouldering a bunch of expectations, we have forgotten ourselves: our families, our health, and our mental wellness. This is what I fear - detachment from what keeps us together while running to complete expectations.
“As a storyteller, I want to make a difference through my art and my medium. During the pandemic, I have painted and distributed hand-painted cloth masks and for me, these tiny efforts are what make the building blocks for a greater change in the future.”
Teslim Sanni, a graduate of QF partner university Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, said: “I see a future where people are the representors regardless of their diverse backgrounds or economic or agenda, and where people will continue to compete for power and authority. A future that would be much more globalized and we will have better means of communication.
“My fear is that as we move forward, there will be people who will continue to bring negative energy and share pessimism about what the world would look like in the future. But I am always on the optimistic side, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
You don’t have to agree with others, but it is important to have respect, because respect is what can bring peace
“One way we can contribute to build a better world is to share how we feel and respect one another regardless where the others stand. You don’t have to agree with others, but it is important to have respect, because respect is what can bring peace. We can also contribute by seeking education
not only classroom education, but education about people, cultures and ideas. One of the main issues that is causing unrest in the world today is that people are not educated about one another.”
According to 18-year-old Marya Taj Khan, a freshman student at QF partner university Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q): “We are increasingly becoming aware of the future that awaits us.
“With issues surrounding us today such as global warming, terrorism and all political around the world, we have taken actions and we have become more involved in making ourselves aware of such issues. We realized that we do not need to wait until we become adults to make a change because the future is happening right now.
We realized that we do not need to wait until we become adults to make a change because the future is happening right now
“The fears about the future are not very hard to find. The biggest threat is global warming – not just for us as individuals, but for all life on earth. This is a grim reality that our generation will have the hardest time dealing with. There are also problems like racism, as well as political unrest, that keep flaring up. It is very scary, and we have to be ready to face these challenges.”
Tayyaba Imran, 20, who is a member of the Class of 2023 at NU-Q and is studying Journalism, said: “Recent events and global catastrophes have proved that youth worldwide do not shy away from responding to issues that are significant to them. I am hopeful about the spirit that is fostered in learning communities such as Education City, where students take the initiative and are supported by their institutions.
“As a student myself, I hope to prioritize awareness and self-education because the world is rapidly transforming, and to be surrounded by people of diverse backgrounds, I feel it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about global issues and their context.
“I fear that most youth-led initiatives might face shortcomings in terms of resources and financial backing, and so I hope the governments recognize the potential of young minds and successfully put in place a mechanism that empowers youth.”
For youth like myself, I know we need to build our own opportunities and we need to be innovative about that
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a domino effect in unveiling several social and economic issues that most governments failed to address. I feel the chain of events has made us confront our condition and forced us to think about what can be done about it. The world is rebuilding, and it is only beginning to recover. For youth like myself, I know we need to build our own opportunities and we need to be innovative about that.
“For sure, the future will indefinitely have its own set of challenges, but I am hopeful that just like today, tomorrow, people will not hold back from addressing issues and eventually find a solution for them.”
For 18-year-old Leena Fatima Syed, a recent graduate of Qatar Academy Doha – part of QF’s Pre-University Education – who is now moving on to study at QF partner university Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, the path to creating change lies in the sphere of healthcare.
“As an incoming student of healthcare and medicine, I aspire to become an individual who not only cares for others in their most vulnerable states, but one who advocates for necessary reform in medicine as it currently stands,” she explained.
My hope for the future of this world is for people to think past the idea of solely obtaining a personal benefit and move more towards bettering the livelihoods of others
“Healthcare professionals possess a great deal of power, and with our current political climate revealing numerous intolerable prejudices and biases inherent in various systems of our society, I find myself confronting personal biases and educating myself on racial biases prevalent in medicine.
“Through my journey in medicine, I hope to not only actively counter these biases myself, but build a community of individuals around me who aim to do so as well.”
Lena Alhmoud, from Jordan, is studying Journalism and a minor in Politics at NU-Q, and says that International Youth Day is an opportunity “to reflect on the hopes I have for the future – and the fears as well.”
“One of the biggest hopes I have is for our world to be more just, more peaceful, and for young people to have equal access to opportunities,” she said.
“I try to take it upon myself to reduce suffering in the community that I live in, in whatever shape that might take, big or small. It scares me that there are people in our world – key figures – who are not doing enough to empower the leaders of tomorrow and secure a better future for us all.
“But I try to be optimistic and focus on examples of people who are using their power to do good, investing in youth development and employment, and in high quality education, I see a lot of that here in Qatar, through Silatech, Doha Debates, and Qatar Foundation and Education City itself, and that makes me hopeful for a more peaceful and just future.”
And Kamilah Idris, an International Economics student at GU-Q, said: “My hope for the future is for people to cultivate an environment of genuine selflessness; for there to be a genuine mindset of acting with the aim of bettering the community by whatever means; for people to be able to follow their passions, but also use the same passions to make a positive impact on the world, regardless of the magnitude.
My philosophy is all about giving back, and as I grow and transition from my university career to my working career, I hope that the magnitude with which I will be able to do this increases.
“My fear is that societal mindsets become more and more individualistic, but my hope for the future of this world is for people to think past the idea of solely obtaining a personal benefit and move more towards bettering the livelihoods of others.”