I had the pleasure of an invitation from the US embassy to join a group discussion with students from the Hashemite University (HU) and then to be followed with a private talk with the Ambassador himself Mr Stuart Jones.
When they initially called me to participate in this function I was a little bit skeptic but I didn’t expect it to be that exciting.
Meeting youth is always pleasurable and exciting as I’m a true believer of the notion that “Empowering the youth is the fuel on the road to success”. I wanted to hear and listen to Jordan youth do really think of, what they look for and their perspective on what’s happening around. I believe big changes start from such meetings and encounters where youth are invited to speak out about their own challenges, hopes and dreams. One of the main topics that were dwelt on relates to the issue of employment which seems to be of great concern despite the fact that most of youth are still undertaking their studies. It was highlighted how Jordan despite its poor-natural resource situation do still nevertheless very much empowered by its human resources capabilities which could be – if appropriately managed and steered could push the economy forward into the right direction.
The US Ambassador Mr Jones initiated the group discussion by putting forward a very important question which asked: “How to help and empower students (especially those with high academic achievements) to put their talents to work toward realizing an actual positive material impact for the country as a whole? It seems that most participants agreed that Entrepreneurship could be a prime candidate for a workable solution but that can’t be separated from the challenges that are presented. Youth need to be well prepared with the right skills to qualify them and as well as to enable them to nurture their own startup business which surely needs endless effort and focus. Saying this the Ambassador added: “Don’t wait for the job to come to you, you create it by owning the initiative!”. And we can be motivated and inspired by many success stories in Jordan.
Another important point that was raised by one of the students relates to the issue of the environment protection in Jordan and the challenges to come up with sustainable solutions in support of these strategies. Recycling was definitely a prime solution and it has to be a priority for any JO government. The Ambassador also shared with the group an example that was implemented at the embassy and it was suggested that it would be great if such examples can be applied at other Jordanian companies and organizations.
Many other topics were also discussed including utilizing natural resources in Jordan, the US-JO Trade agreement, international aid programs. It was indeed a rich discussion but I would have liked to see more diversity in the topics that students initiated, such as strategies to elevate the education system and investment in R&D (Research and Development).
After the group discussion, I joined the Ambassador for a one to one discussion. We discussed the outcome of the discussion with the HU students and the effectiveness of such encounters and events. He lamented that employment remains a top priority and challenge to the youth and he pointed that they need to invest time and effort to up skill and to improve their capabilities, knowledge and know-how to be better equipped for coming challenges. He pointed to an important misconception of the common mistake that entrepreneurs become rich over short period of time while the contrary is true; it requires hard work, absolute dedication and commitment and it would be better if they gain the needed experience in the market before they start their own mission! And this is exactly what happened with me when I graduated last year, I had training at Oasis500 and I was really excited to work on my ideas but I preferred to gain experience and come later after two years or more J
Another point we talked about was the grants that Jordan receives and how successive government manage such grants. The Ambassador pointed that such grants are carefully traced and monitored. Later, the I was introduced to USAID Deputy Mission Director who explained many unclear things about his organization’s roles and responsibilities and projects in the country. The issue of corruption was raised and it was agreed how negatively and severely it could impact and affect the economy and the country if no proper legislations are put forward to eliminate (or at least curb) its causes and consequences.
Another topic was about the partnership between JO government, private sector, and international organizations. I strongly believe that in order to achieve empowerment we need to work together in all the possible means at our disposal to advance the country. One of such projects that were mentioned is JEDCO (http://www.jedco.gov.jo) and how members of this project work to empower women in Badia. I also talked to the Ambassador about my own participation in Global Thinkers Forum, my photography exhibition in which I tried to highlight the women who are behind the scene and my visit to Zaatari Camp. He was delighted and impressed with my experiences and effort. And later we attended a ceremony for the launch of As-Samra Wastewater Treatment plant expansion which shows the partnership between JO Government and the US government through MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation). This project is expected to provide Jordan with 133 million cubic meters of treated water per year, which accounts for more than 10% of Jordan’s water resources. This will benefit over two million Jordanians. Amazing.
Truly, this was an amazing, insightful, unforgettable and enjoyable experience. It made me feel that we really need to work very hard (and smart) to advance the country and to achieve our prime goal of reaching total self-reliance, economic prosperity, fighting ignorance and poverty and also to eliminate dependence of external grants and help from other countries. Truly; we can do it but we just need to focus our minds and energy on the task.