IIFMENA 2018 encourages youth to use social media to bring positive change

SHARJAH, 26th October, 2018 (WAM) — The theme of using bolder efforts to incorporate technology to benefit the region’s development agenda continued after the opening remarks on the second day of the ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA 2018) conference in Sharjah, where using social media to create awareness about social issues was brought into focus during the first panel discussion, entitled ‘Youth, Social Media and Creating Positive Change’.

Based upon the theme of the third edition, ‘Youth – Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, the session, organised in partnership with UNHCR, focused on the role of social media influencers in highlighting the plight of refugees and determining what are the outcomes of such exposure when tackling the growing refugee crisis in the MENA region.

Moderating the session was the Head of UNHCR’s Private Sector Partnerships, MENA, Houssam Chahine. Joining him on the panel were Motivational Speaker and Social Media Influencer Zainab Eqabi, journalist Chaker Khazaal and social media activist Dr. Ahmed Abumalik, who specialises in promoting health awareness.

Chahine opened the session by asking panelists about the role of influencers when it comes to raising awareness about social issues, in particular the current refugee crisis.

Eqabi referred to her first UNHCR mission to the UK, saying, “I was personally very affected by my visit to the UK. You get a reality check. Despite the very difficult family situations, life goes on. This helps you to share the story.”

Fellow panelist Khazaal echoed Eqabi’s comments. A refugee himself, he left Lebanon and moved to Canada, before moving to the US. Khazaal explained how many of his social media followers in the West did not even understand what a refugee was. As a journalist, he is now able to educate them and highlights “their humanity” and presents refugees to his audience as human beings; people not to be feared.

“Anyone, at any time, can become a refugee,” he said.

The two-day conference, which concludes on Thursday, was organised by Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity, The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), with key partners, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), UN Women, and SOS Children’s Villages. It is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah, and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness, Chairperson of the Big Heart Foundation and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children.

The biennial IIFMENA event focuses on humanitarian and development challenges in the MENA region.

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