NYUAD Sophomore at One Young World Summit

Sophomore Imen Haddad attended the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, as a delegate for Tunisia from Oct. 2, 2013 to Oct. 5, 2013. ...

Oct 26, 2013

Sophomore Imen Haddad attended the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, as a delegate for Tunisia from Oct. 2, 2013 to Oct. 5, 2013. One Young World is only second to the Olympics in bringing young people from around the world together. Along with delegates at the conference are Counsellors, who together discuss and design solutions to world issues. This year Counsellors included Kofi Annan, Muhammad Yunus, Ariana Huffington and Sir Richard Branson.
In a Q&A with The Gazelle, Haddad spoke about networking, speaking with Al Jazeera English and her experience at the Summit.
QUESTION: How did you get involved?
ANSWER: On the website called One Young World, you sign in, make a profile ... For me, it was [trickier] to get the sponsorship. Most delegates do a lot of fundraising with companies and universities, but NYU Abu Dhabi has never sent anyone to the conference. I thought I should apply [on behalf of] the least represented countries. What happened is — Tunisia is not represented every single year, so I got a full scholarship [from One Young World] to go to the conference.
Courtesy of Imen Haddad
Photo by Imen Haddad
Q: Did you have a goal in mind as you went to the conference?
A: At the beginning, I was a speaker for Leadership and Governance, but that was a [workshop] session that got cancelled. Then I was going as a normal delegate. When you go to any conference as big as One Young World, networking is your ultimate goal. If you are smart enough and know how to get around in a small space for 1,300 delegates from 192 countries — if you find your way and know exactly who you're talking [to] — it's absolutely amazing.
Courtesy of Imen Haddad
Photo by Imen Haddad
Q: Did you have another opportunity as a speaker?
A: I was contacted by Al Jazeera English to be on a show with Kofi Annan and InkuluFreeHeid, which is a South African group lobbying for youth change. I got to meet these people and talk to them, but the show was cancelled because Kofi Annan was busy — because he had to go to Desmond Tutu's birthday. Thankfully, I could talk to these people and I really have a good relationship with Inkulu and their people. I want to intern for them and probably work for them after graduation. The thing is, these three men who started Inkulu were delegates and now they're Counsellors too. They're very young; they're my age.
Q: Who were the most memorable speakers?
A: Ariana Huffington was definitely the best speaker I've seen in my life. And the founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, was amazing. The good thing is you get to talk to these people and actually be in touch with them. They get to think about your idea. It's not like no one is listening; these people actually sit and listen, including Kofi Annan and Muhammad Yunus. Muhammad Yunus was so kind and he just listened, and he gives you his business card. It feels real. It feels like there's a purpose and these Counsellors really care.
Courtesy of Imen Haddad
Photo by Imen Haddad
Q: What was the most inspiring thing to you?
A: You're sitting there and it's your first conference — for other people, it was their second or third conference — it's my time to listen, more than show off who I am. I was listening all the time. Muhammad Yunus stood up and asked the Bangladeshi delegates to stand. These kids, who are now in university, are the kids that started working with him when he first started his journey, making honey and jam in Coca-Cola bottles — then he started the packaging business. I thought that was very powerful. [It] doesn't matter where you started, or your circumstances. You can go down, but why not go up?
Q: What did it inspire you to do?
A: It's just a lot of inspiration that at some point, you think, listen, listen, listen, OK, amazing stories ... but what are you going to do about it? Listening isn’t going to change anything. But honestly, when you listen to people who have done things, who come from poor or disenfranchised communities, and they're standing there — you think, why not me? I'll come back and I want to stand up and speak about a year of One Young World involvement.
Q: What was the most memorable conversation you had?
A: There were breakout sessions where you go out to communities in Johannesburg. They took us to a place called the Golden Arc. Golden Arc offers two meals a day to kids in the area. It fights malnutrition and hunger in the small community. I spoke to this kid from Golden Arc who is 18 and apparently the hero of Golden Arc because all the kids look up to him. He is very successful in school. He's an amazing athlete. I had a conversation with him about how he sees the future. He was being very humble about the things that he can do in his life. I thought to myself, why do I feel so empowered, and why do I get to go to these [different] conferences, and meet these people in my school who constantly make me feel like I need to achieve more every single time? I had a long conversation with him, trying to make him [feel] as if he could [aspire] to more than getting a job and getting married and living forever there. He was laughing the whole time saying, “I can't do that, where's the money?” I thought I had a good way for him to understand that he can think outside of that circumstance.
Courtesy of Imen Haddad
Photo by Imen Haddad
Q: What are the specific world issues that you want to attack?
A: Before I got the scholarship to go, I was planning a biking trip [in] Tunisia with Louis Plottel. It's going to be a biking trip for different issues — environmental, political, social. We'll set up bikes in different provinces for people to come, compete for them, and people who have bikes can just follow us from one province to the other. We're setting up workshops in different places. It's this huge group of young people who want to start the discussion about the situation in Tunisia and North Africa after the Arab Spring. When you go to a conference like One Young World, the possibilities are endless. There are funding possibilities, there is support, you can get a counsellor to be your own coach. Next month I'm going to Ethiopia for the African Union and I can mobilize people from there.
Q: How does it inform your studies at NYUAD?
A:  Of course, film is always in the back of my mind. I'm always thinking about opportunities to make films, especially at home ... It's just too many things, I don't know where to start. The energy is there, the opportunities are there, the people are there. It's just [about] how to start ... I think people at this school are a perfect fit for the conference.
Joey Bui is news editor. Email her at 
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