The Soukie Speaks’ #RaiseYourHand series celebrates young people in the MENA region who are actively and passionately promoting social, economic and cultural inclusion in their communities.
Eman Alaghbari is one of five children born to a loving mother and father. She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science, a master’s degree in petroleum engineering and she’s currently enrolled in an MBA program. At the moment, Eman is working as a reservoir engineer for an oil company, but she has also worked as a geoscience and reservoir analyst, a report developer and a programmer in the past.
There’s no doubt that Eman’s academic and professional achievements as a woman in STEM are impressive in and of themselves. However, when you consider the fact that she has been able to achieve all of this in Yemen, one of the most conservative societies in the Middle East, you can’t help but admire her accomplishments that much more. Thanks to her parent’s support, Eman has been able to flourish as an individual and she aims to help other young Yemenis develop a “social and economic climate” that will help them do the same.
However, Yemen’s “social and economic climates” aren’t the only kinds of climate that Eman is concerned about. In 2015, Eman founded the Nature Conservation Initiative, because she felt the need to educate others about the negative impacts of climate change on Yemen and the desire to promote social entrepreneurship through climate change initiatives- amongst other things. In this interview, Eman shares how she is fighting to preserve the environment and promote sustainable development in Yemen in the face of soaring unemployment rates and an ongoing conflict.
1) When did you become socially active?
My interest in social activism began in 2015, when the conflict broke out in Yemen, and like many other Yemenis, I got temporarily suspended from work. During my suspension, I was inspired to start an initiative, which I called the Nature Conservation Initiative (NCI).
2) What made you interested in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and which SDG goal are you interested in and why?
In October 2015, I was selected as a Yemeni participant in the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) held in Amman, Jordan, which was sponsored by the UNDP regional office and MBC Al-Amal. One of the YLP workshops discussed how the idea of sustainability was a core value of Arab culture, even before it was developed as a framework for the UN’s 2030 agenda.
After attending that workshop, I got interested in the SDGs, because it made me realize the importance of the idea of sustainability in our lives. At the moment, I’m focusing on SDG goal 13 (Climate Action) by promoting climate change education in Yemen, as the awareness of this issue in my country is very low.
However, as a lesser-economically developed country, we are deeply affected by climate change. In some ways, I believe that the issue of climate change is having even more harmful impacts on Yemen than the current conflict we are facing.
Consequently, I established the NCI to start educating my fellow Yemenis about climate change, so we can start seizing every opportunity we get to mitigate its impact on our country. However, in order to seize these opportunities, we need to make sure that every Yemeni citizen has a minimum level of awareness about climate change, its impact on Yemen and the need to incorporate sustainability in our future development goals.
3) What are you doing to address the SDG 13 (Climate Action)?
As I mentioned before, I’m engaging in climate advocacy by organizing educational workshops and trainings around the topic of climate change. This year, in an effort to start building a network of climate change advocates in Yemen, I hosted the NCI’s first workshop on the SDGs.
After spending months looking for professionals and sponsors for this workshop, I’m happy to say that I was able to secure sponsorship from UNDP Yemen and the Yemeni Authority for Environmental Protection to conduct this workshop between the 3rd and 5th of April 2017.
As a part of the post-workshop activities, we asked the 30 participants who took place in our workshop to do awareness activities in schools, universities, NGOs, government offices, and even in their homes. Some of our workshop participants have already started engaging in climate change advocacy and, so far, I think that the outcomes have been very interesting.
However, this isn’t the only way that NCI is trying to promote change. At this stage, what I’m also trying to do is to encourage our workshop participants to think of ideas and projects to address the issue of climate change in Yemen, while also reducing the suffering of the Yemeni people by creating valuable job opportunities.
I also encourage NCI members to share and exchange important opportunities, such as international conferences, trainings, funding competitions etc so they can continue to increase their knowledge, expand their networks and promote NCI efforts.
4) What are your organization’s short-term and long-term goals?
By end of 2017, the NCI would like to start accomplishing the following goals:
- Further enhance the climate awareness and advocacy efforts of the NCI’s current members.
- Promote climate action advocacy and the culture of sustainable development in Yemen’s educated communities within the country and abroad.
- Build partnerships with NGOs, IGOs and climate change stakeholders who are interested in supporting and funding NCI climate action advocacy activities and future climate change projects.
- Networking and combining forces with other local, regional and international SDG advocacy groups.
- Participating and representing Yemen in more local, regional and international conferences and events on climate change and sustainable development.
The NCI’s has many ambitious long-term, which include:
- Establishing an NCI institute in different cities throughout Yemen, so we can provide Yemeni citizens with quality training from qualified experts on climate change and sustainable development.
- Establishing a research center that focuses on creating tailor-made solutions and social enterprises for the specific challenges that Yemen and its people face as result of climate change
- Petitioning the government to implement comprehensive policies that protect the environment and mitigate the negative impact that climate change is having on Yemeni citizens.
5) What are the challenges that you face as you try to tackle the issue of climate change?
Unfortunately, many people in Yemen feel like climate change isn’t a priority due to the conflict and the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation that we’re currently facing in the country. While I don’t deny that that there are many serious problems that my country is facing, I still believe that it’s important to promote awareness around climate change and sustainable development, because these ideas will play a key role in the future progress of Yemen.
6) How can global youth, civil society groups, academics, entrepreneurs, scientists etc help support the NCI cause?
NCI is currently looking to establish partnerships with NGOs and IGOs, who can support and develop the climate change-related social enterprises that we aim to establish through our organization. In order to ensure the success of our Yemeni-based social entrepreneurs, we will need to help them acquire and improve various skills such as:
- English language
- Proposal writing
- Report writing
- Digital Marketing
- Advocacy campaigning
Our aspiring entrepreneurs will also require in depth technical training on climate change and the specific impact it’s having on Yemen’s agriculture, health, education and other sectors. If we can get the necessary support from local, regional and international stakeholders, I believe that we can help young Yemeni climate change advocates develop the competencies they need to get the job done. If you feel that you can support NCI in any of these pursuits, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7) How can people learn more about you and your project(s)?
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