LONDON: A 20-year-old recipient of an Arab Women of the Year award has hailed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for championing women’s rights.
Yemeni human rights activist Nada Al-Ahdal, who escaped two different child marriages by the age of 10, dedicated her achievement in social awareness award to the crown prince who she lauded for having helped bring about great changes over a short period of time.
“As influencers, we’ve been working on spreading awareness for years, and he made it in one decision. That’s one decision only, he saved millions of lives in Saudi Arabia, and that’s what we really need,” Al-Ahdal told Arab News.
She said that after running away from her family at the age of 11, she had been fortunate that a video she posted on social media had gone viral and pushed on the Yemeni government to protect her.
“You don’t have to be on the big screen to influence people or change their minds. Just the phone now, the impact is not local anymore, it’s international. So, a video saved my life, and we need to talk about the victims in our countries, about violations, child marriage, and everything women suffer from.
“Believe me, we will find soldiers that can protect women and help us to build a better generation,” she added.
Al-Ahdal noted that there were no laws in Yemen protecting girls from child marriages but after her case spread online the Yemeni government introduced legislation to protect girls under the age of 18.
She pointed out that exposure of her ordeal on social media platforms had helped to raise awareness about the issue and she urged Arab women to reveal their experiences too.
“Even though there is a gap between men and women in the Arab world, we need to show that as women we can do it, we can still be leaders, and can change in our society and empower ourselves by ourselves,” she said.
This year’s awards ceremony, held at the Carlton Tower Jumeirah Hotel in London, was titled “Unlock Her Future,” a new initiative launched by event organizer London Arabia.
Omar Bdour, chief executive officer of London Arabia, said: “We believe by unlocking futures for young girls in the Arab world, we can unlock futures for every man and woman in the Arab world. We can’t think of a better future if young girls can’t find their way.”
He added that the organization would be working with institutions, universities, individuals, businesses, and parents to unlock futures, with Egyptian actress Yasmine Sabri helping to further raise awareness as the campaign’s ambassador.
This year’s awards, which celebrate the achievements of Arab women around the world, were unique due to the diversity of winners, Bdour said.
Among those recognized for their work was Egyptian Magi Gobran in community service, Qatari Sheikha Alanoud Al-Thani in financial services, Omani Areej Mohsin Darwish in business, Bahraini Sheikha Rana Al-Khalifa for social leadership, Jordanian Caroline Faraj in media, Emirati Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza Al-Nahyan in culture, Moroccan Leila Benali in sustainable development leadership, and Kuwaiti Fatemah Al-Zelzela for youth achievement in environmental impact.
Al-Zelzela said: “An international award like that means that we’re going to deliver our messages to other parts of the world, and we need international voices to raise awareness and collaborate about the environmental impacts that the whole world is facing.
“So, this is something that might be helpful for Kuwaiti citizens to overcome the challenges that we are facing with regard to recycling and waste management.”
The 25-year-old environmentalist founded EcoStar, an initiative that recycles waste in exchange for trees and plants, and in 2020 she was named a Young Champion of the Earth by the UN Environment Program.
Kuwaiti ambassador to the UK and dean of the Diplomatic Corps in London, Khaled Al-Duwaisan, said the awards showed how Arab women had achieved their goals in competing in a range of fields.
“Fatemah did a wonderful job as a representative of the UN and here when she won the women’s prize. I am very proud of her, and we are proud as Kuwaitis of her achievement,” he added.