Dima Mohammed Akhwan, an 18 year-old Saudi female, distinguished herself at the Jeddah Economic Forum last week, when she participated in a roundtable discussion entitled “The Generation Gap: What do we owe the future?”, in collaboration with George Blad, the representation of a US company that trains young men and women for leadership positions, Dr, Devi Costra, head of “The Global Family”, an international NGO and Dr. Mohammed Ikhwan, a Saudi businessman.
Reflecting the increased awareness of Saudi arabia’s youth, Dima said, “It is important to build bridges between generations. We also need to recognize the importance of each generation, present and future, towards the other.”
“The older generation needs to fulfill its role and support the values of civil society, such as transparency, accountability, development and openness. It also needs to provide the tools for the new generation and prepare the grounds for effective education, supporting creativity and developing communication skills. Our generation needs to strengthen these concepts and values and develop them further”.
Speaking about the role of women in society, Dima said, “Women ought to fight for their natural rights, in the workplace, education, politics or the economy. Closed doors will then undoubtedly open and qualifications will become the only criterion between the two sexes.”
A computer and electric engineering student, the 18 year old is a fluent English speaker and is currently learning French. She believes that young men and women in Saudi Arabia have yet to seize the opportunity and express their views. They also lack the opportunity to take part in the decision making process even at the lowest levels, such as in school or university.
“Young men and women do not care about such issues because they do not see a clear benefit from expressing their views. They are marginalized even in matters that relate directly to them.”
Dima visited the US two years ago as part of a cultural exchange program between American and Saudi youths. “There is no truth behind the claims of a cultural or intellectual invasion. [In such matters] our local discourse is of our own creation. We have stereotyped the West and pictured that it seeks to attack and destroy us. Being this defensive is unhealthy. I do not see globalization as a war or an invasion.”
The young Saudi participant is a model refuting those who attack Saudi youths, seek to restrict women to the home, or marginalize the young generation and force them to be apathetic.
The likes of Dima need national institutions, free from ideology, to embrace them. They need student clubs inside schools and universities, as well as a healthy environment in which to prosper. I believe young Saudis will succeed if they Shown an interest in the abilities; these capabilities that have enable Dima to participate with prominent political and economic figures in the Jeddah Economic Forum.