n-mu (which means "I grow" in Arabic) is a Youth Training Program developed by EF in collaboration with en.v in Kuwait aimed at empowering young people with the skills and tools to create positive change. The program provided an intensive four-week training on Active Citizenship, Critical Thinking, Advocacy, and Media Messaging while supporting participants as they designed and implemented a community project responding to a locally identified need.
Motivated to make a positive difference in her community, Zainab Mirza took part in n-mu's Youth Training Program in Kuwait in 2016.
By Zainab Mirza
As expatriates in a foreign country, we are conditioned to think that we can play no role in the development of its culture and society. As a result, when faced with issues not in our favor, we usually make personal choices in being complacent, resigned, or bitter while complaining of the status quo. No matter how we feel, we believe we can do nothing.
But the problem isn’t that we can’t be influencers; it is that we don’t know we can.
Curiosity sufficiently piqued, and fed up of my own (pre-conceived) helplessness and ignorance, I signed up not really knowing what to expect but hoping to learn what I could about catalyzing positive change.
Module 1: Active Citizenship
I was certain Active Citizenship was irrelevant to me; after all, I wasn’t a citizen. What we discussed that week came as a revelation, because being an active citizen had nothing to do with nationality, but about being an active community member. I learned that change could occur in three areas—at policy level, implementation level, and most accessibly, in the culture and attitude of the community. The possibilities blew my mind.
We listed issues that we cared most about (and there were a lot), and then, through a fun activity, we formed groups to subsequently work on community projects tackling those issues.
Module 2: Critical Thinking
The Critical Thinking module helped me recognize limitations in my own thinking, and taught me that refining the cognitive process is a lifelong endeavor. Through group discussions and activities, we examined our assumptions on various subjects and tried to validate them, amassing techniques which we later applied to our projects.
The state of education today doesn’t necessarily encourage individuals to think rationally and independently. In an increasingly intolerant world, it is essential that critical thinking is taught, if only to encourage one to see through multiple perspectives to develop empathy and accept differences.
Module 3: Advocacy
During the third week, which focused on Advocacy, we identified the stakeholders that would help or hinder us and discussed the different stages of the advocacy cycle to further our community project goals.
Module 4: Media Literacy
The last module focused on Media Literacy which involved careful evaluation of media messages and how they shape our perceptions of reality, even though they don’t reflect them.
What I loved most about n-mu was how hands-on and fun the program was. True to its name—Arabic for “I grow”—it was an enriching, enlightening, and empowering experience. As Mark Twain said, “The world owes us nothing. It was here first.” We, on the other hand, as living, breathing parts of society, have a responsibility towards our world. Whether you’re a citizen or an expat, you have the ability to spark meaningful change in your social environment. The question is, will you?
Feature image credit: Mufaddal Mohammed (April 2016)
Zainab Mirza is a co-founder of The Divan and is on the core teams of ImaginIt and Reclaim Kuwait. A writer and poet, she thrives on diverse experiences. She's an ardent believer of the adage "Change begins with one person, one person at a time" and aspires to make a positive difference to her social environment.