About a month ago, I met Chris Schroeder, a US based investor and entrepreneur. It happened that Chris has a keen interest in the Middle East and was writing about Middle Eastern Women in Entrepreneurship so we met to discuss nabbesh a company I have founded in early 2012 with the objective to tackle the “employment” problem in the Middle East.
Chris completely took me off guard, by asking: Do you define yourself as a Lebanese or as an Arab? Frankly, I don’t think I have strong nationalistic feelings, I was always caught up in the “Are you a Phoenician or an Arab debate”. So I told Chris that I was an Arab.
Then he asked: What do you think about the Arab world… So I said… I am disappointed.
He continued to say, but you are building nabbesh, so you care! To which I answered, of course I do…
Turns out both Chris and I share a mutual feeling about the Arab world… We are Hopeful!
Fast forward a couple of weeks, my friend who is currently an Economics student at the American University of Cairo, had been pushing me to read “A Generation in Waiting” a book by Navtej Dhillon and Tarik Yousef. So I decided it was about time…
The book is fascinating and sheds light on some of the issues of our time – The Unfulfilled Promise of Young People in the Middle East – and by our time, I mean my time! Let me explain.
I grew up in an environment infested with racism, war and hatred, where people kill each other based on religion, and the human life was worthless. An environment where I spent countless days stuck in a room the size of a bathroom while my mother held me in her arms and we both prayed to God to spare us from the bombs flying over our house and we get to live another day.
After that, came peace, or more of the same hatred less the bombs. We were now killing each other economically, by ripping each other off… The poor got poorer and the rich, well, they got richer!
Unfortunately or maybe fortunately I wasn’t part of the latter…
This sense of being “fed up” is so strong, it’s like the saying that goes “love can move mountains”. I was so fed up so I wanted to move mountains… And what better way it is to move mountains then by giving people the means to move their own mountains, one by one.
There are more than 100 million people between the ages of 15 and 29 in the Middle East, most of them, I am sure, share similar feelings of disappointment.
I suppose, I have Chris to thank for helping me articulate why “I care”. I care because I refuse to live in a place where people don’t get a chance to have a decent living. It is everyone’s right… To work, to have a decent life, to make a respectable wage, to have a family.
The problem is way too big, the mountain is high, but I firmly believe that this generation is No Longer in waiting. This generation is here to prove that we want something different from this region. I now know why I care, because I want to be part of the solution.
So right now, I will continue working on making a difference, on a generation that wants to “do” and not “wait”. It all starts with the right to work…
So if you are a young Arab reading this, ask yourself, do I want to be part of the solution? And then take action.