The Commercialization of Education

Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)

Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)

Column: Hidden Promises
Alia is an AUS student double majoring in International Studies and English literature. She is also the author of Alatash fictional novel. Her main goal is to make a change and empower the youth. Her column is meant to help the younger generations deal with tough situations. It was given that title as hidden promises is what us teenagers often believe; false promises.
Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)

Article in brief: the author discusses how education is being viewed in our modern age in a commercialized perspective instead of a learning perspective.

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Last week, in my Microeconomics class, the professor started explaining the cost-benefit analysis that states: one must always undergo the action that pays more than it costs.

Within the discussion, the professor talked about the implicit and explicit cost of education. As the discussion progressed, these costs to talented people were examined. The professor then asked us a unique question stating “Is Messi better off going to college or being a professional football player?”

Now, the professor wanted to see the difference between making a decision based on personal opinion and using the cost-benefit analysis but he asked us to answer based on our personal preference.

In my head, the answer was very clear. Pursuing talent can be done alongside getting an education so he should do both. Education is an irreplaceable opportunity that would help Messi, the professional Argentinian football player, grow as a human being.

But to be fair, this is an economics class so I had to take an economists approach. From an economic perspective, it is better for Messi to play football professionally as his net worth adds up to $230 million. However, my classmates’ responses upset me.

I sat there listening to the contribution of my fellow students to the matter. Summing up the entire discussion, the students deduced that Messi would be wasting his time by getting a degree because he gets paid in millions.

Frankly, I was astounded by their reaction. Their conclusion caught me off guard and got me thinking, has education really become this commercial? Are we all soulless individuals stuck in a campus wasting our time and effort solely to obtain a degree that’s basically going to be the source of our income? It seemed like most people in my class were there for the exclusive drive of getting qualified for a job. They didn’t seem interested in the growth and widening of their mindsets.

To understand a problem, one has to understand its roots. So, from a societal perspective, it kind of made sense. Nowadays, people just want to be normal. From the moment an individual is born, society dictates that their lives should go a certain way – going to school, getting a job and then getting married.

People spend their entire lives following the status quo. That itself makes most people do what they’re supposed to, without thinking why they have to do it. Getting an education might be the rational thing to do but it has more outcomes than simply getting us qualified for a job.

Some people find themselves in a lot of financial debts, simply to learn, and now my classmates are arguing that education is worthless if you can attain money without it. I understand that education can help in improving one’s standard of living but it shouldn’t be the only motive behind getting a degree. It is sad to see that in time’s most advanced era, education is taken for granted.

Our minds seem to be deviated from the core of education, away from the learning process that expands our minds, thinking processes, and naturally, our lives. I believe it’s about time people stop viewing education as a monetary tool, and start going back to its essence and what it truly means. In 2015, we are privileged to see education available at a larger scale than it used to, so we might as well start appreciating that.

What Having A Girl Guides Association Mean for the Generation of Tomorrow (@ShjGirlGuides)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Article in brief: the author talks about Sharjah’s Girl Guides, and explains the importance of Girl Guides associations to empower women and combat unconscious gender bias in the society.

Picture provided by Sharjah Girl Guides (SGG)

Picture provided by Sharjah Girl Guides (SGG)

I can’t even begin to imagine how different my life would have been if I had been part of a Girl Guides or Scouts as a little girl. Can you imagine your own life with it? A couple of days ago I attended the badge award ceremony of Sharjah’s Girl Guides[1], under the patronage of HH Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of UAE Girl Guides Association and patron of Sharjah Girl Guides (SGG), wife of Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. I had to fight back my tears when the Girl Guides’ activities were listed and they walked proudly and confidently on the stage to receive their badges from HH Sheikha Jawaher. I welled up with pride and joy looking at how much they had achieved.

Let me tell you why this is such an important thing in our community. The leaders of the country have a very clear message when it comes to educating and empowering women. Ensuring women’s education is attainable by putting down proper rules and regulations, but the empowering part will always remain a difficult part to enforce. No matter how much the country tries to mandate gender quotas on leadership roles, if women don’t believe in themselves, and if society keeps thinking of them as the “soft gender”, all efforts are in vain.

Society’s actions and behaviors that hinder the empowerment of women are not unique to the Middle East, but are global and are heavily studied in the West under the term “unconscious gender bias”[2]. You can research the case study by Harvard Business School called “Heidi vs. Howard”[3] and you’ll find many studies and articles on this concept, and the more you read the more you’ll realize how we all must have gone through it in a way or another. These actions are never consciously meant to hold back or cause pain to the girls as they grow up or even as adults[4]. It was best said in a women leadership website called “Handbags in the Boardroom”: “we are not aware of this filter on our assessments and decision making.”[5] That is why changing this will be difficult, because we can’t change what we can’t see. And so we’ll need to start pointing such biases every time so people can start recognizing the patterns and break them, instead of reaffirming them with sayings like “this is how traditionally things have always been.”

The examples on this are infinite, in all phases of life, fields of work, and in almost all countries. I will try to elaborate how one normal thing we do while raising up kids at a young age can form the foundation of a bias and stereotype at an older age:

Picture provided by Sharjah Girl Guides (SGG)

Picture provided by Sharjah Girl Guides (SGG)

When kids are exploring and finding games to play with, girls are often pushed towards games that are “softer” in nature, that don’t include much of the outdoors. If they do play outside, the games are tamed so that the girls don’t hurt themselves, and they must remain where the parents can see them, to step in at anytime for the rescue. On the contrary, boys are encouraged to play outdoors, with no mandate to stay where they can be seen, no restriction on the creativity of what crazy stunts they’ll pull, because falling and getting hurt is part of the package of growing up as a boy. And the result of this? Girls are almost always extra careful and think twice about everything they do because they don’t trust themselves in something they haven’t explored. Remember, they could only explore as long as the rescue is around, which takes much of the fun out of exploring anyway. Boys? Woah, they jump into the most unfamiliar surroundings confidently, not fearing the fall or the hurt, pulling out some life-threatening stunts at times, because they’ve learned that they can always recover from anything on their own and that it’s okay to get hurt every now and then.

Boys are not genetically fearless and neither are girls genetically fearful. They acquire these traits while growing up, after a few occasions of being treated and perceived in that way, leading them to fulfill those qualities projected on them. The more both genders are raised and treated equally, given the same opportunities, rules, responsibilities, and chores, the more proofs we’ll see on the fallacy of our stereotypes and generalizations, and that some girls are much stronger than we give them credit.

So ultimately, regardless of how the leaders of the country mandate rules around the matter, the problem will remain. No matter how much they preach about the importance of empowering women, the way boys and girls are raised at home plays a huge factor in that, and it is difficult to change. Raising boys as the stronger species and girls as the softer one will remain a vicious cycle in many households that is hard to break. And here is where the role of an association like the Sharjah Girl Guides comes into play.

We can’t compel parents to let their girls play outdoors as creatively as they wish, or give them new developmental games, instead of the typical Barbie and dolls. We can’t tell the parents to take their girls to male-oriented gatherings, instead of just female ones, to teach them how to speak their minds instead of just look pretty and stay quiet. Some parents may try a couple of times then forget, because it’s not something everyone is used to or was raised on. But what the country can do is create programmes for girls to introduce them to the outdoors, to learn how to depend on themselves, speak their minds, and develop leadership and teamwork skills.

Picture provided by Sharjah Girl Guides (SGG)

Picture provided by Sharjah Girl Guides (SGG)

That is why Sharjah’s Girl Guides is such an important step. We need to understand that we can’t ensure all parents will rise to the level of girls’ empowerment we’re aspiring to. We need to take the responsibility and create more programmes like Sharjah’s Girl Guides to provide that kind of safe space for girls to develop their individualities, build their self-confidence, and self-esteem. It teaches them that even if they fall, they can stand up on their feet again on their own. When they develop that sort of mindset at an early age, as they grow up they will only develop it further. They will know their value and fight for it without waiting for someone to remind them of their worth and value, and assure them that they can do it.

I salute Sharjah and the great efforts of HH Sheikha Jawaher in taking the initiative and pioneering the Sharjah Girl Guides. I hope the authorities will pick this up and support HH Sheikha Jawaher in establishing this in each emirate, so we can develop a well-balanced society. A society that maybe one day will not wait for the leaders to handpick women into the electoral Federal National Council (FNC), but people themselves can trust a woman to lead and will vote for her to be part of the FNC without thinking twice just because she’s a woman.






Can’t Love You Without A Social Media Status Update

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Column Name: The Words Within
Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a mom of toddler twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with reading and research.
With her column, she shares her journey as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.
Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

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Article in brief: the author looks at how greedy corporations and social media are adding to the pressures of the increasing number of special occasions throughout the year. 

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Is it just me or have the number of days that are dedicated to various occasions and people increased? Apart from mother’s day, father’s day, birthdays, anniversaries, we now have pets’ day, siblings’ day, teacher’s day and the list goes on; every other day seems to be a reason to celebrate an occasion or an individual. While it is great to treasure our loved ones and show them how much they mean to us, I feel that this notion has lost its true meaning. These special days are now not just about appreciating one another, but almost a competition as to who can provide the best gifts. They have become so commercialized and corporations are taking advantage of our social needs of acceptance and pleasing others by making such days bolder and grander.

The commercialization of these events leads the receiver to have high expectations and the giver to have tremendous pressure to conform. An example is Valentine’s Day where grand gestures are expected and everyone wants to know what you received or did on that day. In addition to the pressure on couples, it adds unnecessary stress on the singletons that may feel insecure or left out and end up having a miserable day.

Another issue besides the corporations’ greed is the need to share your special day on social media. These public displays of affection diminish the authenticity of the occasion and our true feelings, and instead they become about social status and superficiality. Does it not mean as much if we just share our love and respect in private? Sharing too much on social media ends up being more about validation rather than showing true appreciation. Instead of posting your declarations of love, pick up the phone and tell that significant person how you feel.

Although many might not agree, I choose not to celebrate these man-made days and instead of giving into social and commercial pressures, I make an effort to celebrate the special people in my life in other ways. We send flowers and gifts to our mothers because corporations dictate that we do so on mother’s day. Wouldn’t it make our mothers happier if we did the same act on any other random day of the year? I am sure it would make her feel a lot more special knowing that this was done out of pure love and not just a formality.

Giving into these commercialized events makes it more of a chore than a genuine act of giving. Not only do we not have to celebrate on these select days, but it doesn’t always have to be about spending a lot of money. We can use our creativity and make things with love. A letter, a card, sharing a special place or memory – all these can be such unique and thoughtful gifts and would surely have a more lasting impact on our loved ones. Sometimes it’s the simple things that can bring the most joy in your life.

1 Year on Celebrating The Written Word (@D_IWC)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Although the writing scene in the UAE began decades ago (including the forming of Emirates Writers Union), the scene still lacked a central hub for writers, whether they be new writers looking to publish, or established authors looking for more inspiration. There was nowhere to meet and connect, somewhere offering all kinds of workshops, events, talks, and book signings. Perhaps the lack of such a place made us believe that this was the norm, and that working in silos was the only way. That is, up until a year ago in November 2014, when all that changed with the opening of the Dubai International Writers Center (DIWC).

Set up by the Emirates Literature Foundation, the same foundation that runs the annual Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, the Writers Center “is the first all-inclusive celebration of the written word in all its forms – writing; fiction and non-fiction; poetry; script-writing; play writing; calligraphy – with a year-round programme of events catering to the multicultural and multinational communities living in the region.”[*]

Some of the events that DIWC has hosted since its inception include creativity camps for children, writing memoirs workshop, a celebration of Khalil Gibran, how to blog workshop, and the arts and craft of storytelling. That’s not counting the book signing events, poetry nights, and many more events that are relevant to the written word in a way or another. With all those events being held in only a year, I believe we can be assured with a promise towards a very bright future for writing and reading in the country.

In honor of their first year anniversary, the DIWC will be hosting a celebration on Saturday, 31st of October, 2015, at 8 PM. The celebration aims to bring together all the authors that have contributed to the literature scene in 2015, and open the door for all book lovers to meet their favorite authors, talk to them directly in a very welcoming and open format, learn from their experiences, and get their copies signed.

Join us as we celebrate DIWC and the literary scene in the country.

DIWC Invite


What is Ajwan? Who is Ajwan? A #BookReview on @NouraNoman’s First Novel

Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

Column: Pocket Full of Books
An avid reader, Maitha has always dreamt of being a recognized novelist and poet. For the last decade she focused on HR as a career, which has taken her away from her dream, but it’s never too late. Her column Pocket full of Books focuses on book reviews and doesn’t necessarily focus on a specific genre.
Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

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Article in brief: reviewing Ajwan, the first Arabic young adult science-fiction book written by Noura Al Noman. The review explores the different themes covered in the book, and the whole new world the author created to demonstrate the horror of wars.

Front cover of Ajwan, Noura Al Noman's young adult science-fiction Arabic novel

Front cover of Ajwan, Noura Al Noman’s young adult science-fiction Arabic novel

I have to admit that Arabic literature has never been on my radar, and that’s because of how philosophical and figurative Arabic literary pieces have become in the last two decades. However, I have found myself attracted to Ajwan, an Arabic Young Adult Science-Fiction novel written by Noura Al Noman. There was so much hype going on around this piece when I first decided to read it back in 2013. The novel opens with Ajwan, the 19-year-old girl who witnesses the destruction of her planet and the death of everyone she loved. Her story is about survival and her desire to find the child she never met. Ajwan literally travels across the universe to find her baby, who had been taken away from her by unknown people who’d drugged her and had taken the baby out of her body. Al Noman managed to create Ajwan, the first Arabic Emirati young adults science-fiction literary piece and has won Best Young Adult Novel in Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature in 2013.

What I really loved about Ajwan is the themes that relate to our world today. It features the cruelty of war and the destruction wars leave behind. The novel was straight to the point and had no gimmicks.

This literary piece is a clear example of Bildungsroman, and what I find interesting is the complex world the novel takes place in. The author has created a universe that I believe makes this novel a brilliant piece of literature in the history of young adults science-fiction in Arabic.

The novel greatly focuses on themes of survival in the guise of Ajwan. The readers will find themselves introduced to different planets and different races such as the race of Hafiki who Ajwan belongs to. It is a race that resides on a water planet where its people survive under water (even though they could live above it). The book opens with the pregnant Ajwan who finds herself alone on a spaceship after the destruction of her planet. Motherhood is another obvious theme in this novel. You find this theme manifesting in Ajwan’s love for the child she had never met, and Ajwan’s relationship with Rohani who welcomes Ajwan in her home, and even though she is not a mother herself, she finds herself sympathising with Ajwan and her loneliness in their world. The war and the cruelty that comes with it are major themes in this book. The author has succeeded in showing how brutal wars are through the death of different characters throughout this novel.

The novel has also been about the importance and strength of relationships. Al Noman created so many layers that emphasised this theme through Ajwan’s relationship with herself, with Rohani, and with her kidnapped baby who at the beginning of the novel is literally taken away from Ajwan’s womb; in all of those relationships she finds different amounts of strength to help her through. At first, Ajwan does come off as whiny and weak, but as her story progresses she becomes fierce and the ordeal she overcomes shows the inner strength she has.

The novel reflects the reality of what our world is now going through and Al Noman did not waste her time sugar-coating it in her novel. It is brutal at times and the deaths in the novel were not kind and gentle. The author’s ability to create a world she was not ashamed or frightened to destroy at times is ambitious, and realistic when it comes to touching the themes of war. That brutality of assassinations and suicide was emphasised on so well in this novel. Hats off to Noura Al Noman for creating Ajwan.

To Forget While Forgiving

Shamma Aldabal (@ShammaMD)

Shamma Aldabal (@ShammaMD)

Column: 12 Lessons
Shamma holds a Masters Degree in Human Rights and a BA in International Affairs. She currently works as an instructor at Zayed University. Having volunteered with people with disability for more than 10 years, she devotes her career and free time to work closely with vulnerable groups to create a visible impact in society. Having interests in philosophy, human psyche, sociology, and literature her column “12 Lessons” will focus on issues that we face as a part of the trial and error process that is life.
Shamma Aldabal (@ShammaMD)

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Article in brief: the author compares forgiving with forgetting, how incomplete would the forgiving be without fully forgetting, and concluding with giving an example of the most ideal forgiving case.

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

I’ve asked a lot of people in my life about forgiveness. Questions like, what does it take for you to forgive? Does it depend on the person or act? How long will it take for you to forgive? Is this forgiveness eternal? How will you act with the person after they’ve hurt you or wronged you?

“O Allah, You are forgiving. You love to forgive, so forgive me

A friend answered my questions by saying “If Allah almighty forgives us humans, who are we not to forgive each other?” Many agreed with what she said and added that one forgives not for people but for them to feel better about themselves. If you carry hatred or sadness in your heart because someone wronged you, it will weigh you down. So forgive to liberate yourself from such a burden; forgive so you could be free.

What’s interesting is that another friend had a different comment on that and said, “We can’t compare ourselves to Allah; He is perfect and we are not. We are humans and because of that not everyone can find the strength to forgive”. This made me think of what most people told me: “yes, of course we forgive”. But the question is, do they really?

I will forgive but not forget

Most people echoed this phrase: “we forgive but don’t forget”. That got me thinking of forgiveness from another angle. If you forgive but don’t forget and you always have that certain memory of someone hurting you, wouldn’t that just be a constant personal reminder of hurt? And have you really forgiven them? I know many might think that this reminder is only to protect yourself from further hurt or to distance yourself from that person altogether. But my question is, wouldn’t it be easier to forgive AND forget? Just forget altogether the incident that happened and keep some distance if you wanted, without having to remind yourself every single time you see them or think about them of the hurt they caused you. To me it sounds unfair. It’s unfair because I make mistakes, as all of us do, and I wouldn’t want people’s memory of me to be the constant reminder of me wronging them. It’s fortunate that I have a rather short-term memory when it comes to such matters, so I can forget about those memories and not hold it against people.

There is a story about the Prophet Mohammed PBUH that demonstrates his willingness not only to forgive, but also to always forget the ill doing of others. Prophet Mohammed PBUH used to pass daily in front of the house of an old woman on his way to the masjid. The old woman made it a habit to throw trash on the Prophet whenever he passed by. This was a daily habit and not once did the prophet show any signs of anger or annoyance. One day, he passed by and noticed the old lady wasn’t there so he asked about her to find out she was ill. Even with what she put him through he still went to visit the old lady to see if she needed any help.

If that story does not show you what forgiveness is, I don’t know what will.

Through the Eyes of Your Child

Ayesha AlJanahi (@_AyeshaAlJanahi)

Ayesha AlJanahi (@_AyeshaAlJanahi)

Column: The First Years Last Forever
A loving mother of a son who has changed her life and put it into perspective. Ayesha is a senior social media specialist, a Global Leader for young children in the Arab region, and a writer in few Arabic publications. Her column is written in collaboration with the Arabian Child organization, and offers inspiration and an in-depth exploration of early childhood development.
Ayesha AlJanahi (@_AyeshaAlJanahi)

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Article in brief: children don’t need parents who act as judges all the time, but they need parents who treat them as friends by coming down to their level and understanding the reasons behind their behavior.

Artwork by Amna Al Saleh (@Tepingi)

Artwork by Amna Al Saleh (@Tepingi)

A father once shared with me his experience of punishing his little son because of his repeated disobedience of going around a corner in the house that he’d asked him not to go around. Each time the child went around that corner, the father punished him severely and warned him against doing that again. But sadly the child kept doing it and finally the father yelled at him and said “Didn’t I make it clear several times that you should not go around that corner?” The little boy innocently looked at him with tear-filled eyes and said “What does ‘corner’ mean, Daddy?”

When we start judging our children or labeling them through their actions, unconsciously, our children will start behaving in a way that conforms to those labels and judgments, and we will continue to interpret their new actions to confirm those premature labels and judgments that we placed on them. When we judge our child as being lazy for instance, we will subconsciously look for proof in his or her behavior to support that judgment. Such misunderstandings can be a major obstacle to healthy family relationships and it may lead to years of misunderstanding between the parent and the child. Think about it, how many times have you thought to yourself that you wish your mother (or father) understood you better?

“There is no way to have rich, rewarding family relationships without real understanding” – Stephen R. Covey.

Time passes so quickly and children grow so fast. We need to take advantage and enjoy every moment we have with them and not let judgements or arguments take precedence over relationships and understandings.

Children will go through transitional phases from childhood to adolescence and then to adulthood where parents need to be very supportive, patient and understanding. Most parents have high expectations of their children’s attitudes, neglecting the children’s growth stages that makes them behave in a certain way. Some children at the age of five or six years can exaggerate, and parents who understand that such behavior is part of their growth wouldn’t overreact to that. Parents only need to be more understanding about the changes children go through as a result of environmental influences, which may cause such exaggerated and emotional tantrums that children are used to displaying.

“When you understand, you don’t judge” – Stephen R. Covey.

However, being a flexible and understanding parent does not come without limits. Parents can be friends with their children but they should know where to draw the line in their friendship, because children are not emotionally mature to take such a responsibility. Even though they are not able to express it, children feel comfortable when they understand the boundaries that are set for them by their parents, especially when their parents are consistent in applying those boundaries and simple house rules. Many stages of a child’s life involve struggling with emotional problems coming from school or friends and this is a chance for parents to display their patience with the child. It is important to provide the sort of environment where the child can express their feelings and share concerns without feeling judged or misunderstood. If parents act authoritatively to instill a sense of obedience and respect in the child, it may compel the child to act aggressively and express disapproval. This is a common scenario that takes place, and it mainly occurs because the parents did not step out of that judgmental bias to understand the child’s concerns.

Parents should listen to their children empathetically and guide them towards adaptive behaviors. If they don’t listen to their children and support the development of their feelings, someone else will take that role and listen to them. In some cases, this could lead to a more harmful influence. Children are watching parents all the time and what parents do influences them. It is important that parents communicate and create an atmosphere where children are willing to talk and pour out their feelings; this will help to turn any negative situations around.

“As long as we’re in the role of judge and jury, we rarely have the kind of influence we want” – Stephen R. Covey.

The most important thing you can do for your children is being present with your body, mind, and soul. Listen to them without judgment. Offer them your entire attention without jumping to conclusions and trust that with your support they will make the right decisions. Parents need to come down to their children level, approach situations from their point of view and see the whole world through their eyes.

Written in collaboration with Arabian Child organization. Visit for more information about early childhood education in the United Arab Emirates.

The Benefits of the To-Do List

Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

Column: Musings of An Entrepreneur

Sidiqa is 25 years old and is half-Emirati and half-Pakistani. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American University of Sharjah and a Master’s degree in Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Peace, and Security from the University of Durham in the UK. Sidiqa owns and manages the boutique-café concept store “Spontiphoria” in Wasl Square, Jumeirah.
Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

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Article in brief: the author extols the benefits of to-do lists, and how the physical to-lists in particular have always worked with her.

Artwork by Marwah Fuad (Twitter: @marwah_f1, Instagram: @ElMeem_Artistry)

Artwork by Marwah Fuad (Twitter: @marwah_f1, Instagram: @ElMeem_Artistry)

In a day and age where technology seems to be increasingly taking over our lives, in beneficial and not-so-beneficial ways, the trusty old paper and pen still has an enduring appeal. When it comes to organizing your life and making to-do lists, I find that writing things down on paper helps in a way no app or software can. But, having said that, it is my personal opinion and perhaps may not work for everyone. There are those who find electronic gadgets to be more efficient for their productivity. But in either scenario, the act of writing down your tasks has endless benefits.

Do you ever experience that late-night mental rush, when you want to wind down and sleep but all you can think of are the endless tasks you have to get done over the next few days? I have these episodes quite often but what always helps me is writing them down immediately. And no, not making a list on my phone but actually pulling out a post-it, notebook, or planner and writing down a list.

A pen and paper will never get old. The fact that it is just you (with a pen in your hand) and the paper interacting can never be replaced by some app where you have to enter commands or push special buttons to make a priority list. I usually start by quickly writing down all the tasks on my mind and getting them off my head and then I peruse the list and add numbers to each task- marking out their priority or what I want to start with first. The ability to re-write your list as you please and make arrows and annotations is something unique to the paper and pen.

Writing down to-do lists also de-stresses you. It’s a physical proof of your tasks, responsibilities, and achievements. Flipping through your planner will show a clear progression of your tasks – when they emerged, when you dealt with them and when they progressed to the next level.

There’s also some sort of amazing satisfaction and pride that comes with crossing things off. Finishing a task and holding that pen in your hand and scratching it off your list; there’s nothing like it. It pushes you to get even more done and is a good productivity booster.

One major benefit of writing down to-do lists is the fact that it comes with no distractions. If I had to write my lists and strategies on my phone or my computer it would perhaps take me triple the amount of time simply because I would get distracted by social media notifications and messages. You can take your planner or a piece of paper anywhere and comfortably write down everything you need to get done without distractions.

And finally, it also has the benefit of being a blank canvas. It helps you brainstorm and develop more efficient and creative ideas. There’s a particular joy associated with writing on a crisp, blank piece of paper.

I never use computers or mobiles to list my tasks or make a plan for the day. Ever since high school I’ve been using a planner or a notebook and it helps me stay organized like no other thing could. The importance of writing things down has so many benefits and helps you be a calmer, more organized, and less stressed individual.

Emiratis Need to Join the World of eCommerce

Salman Karmostaji ( @S_Karmostaji)

Salman Karmostaji ( @S_Karmostaji)

Salman is currently pursuing his undergraduate studies at the AUS. Born with an entrepreneurial spirit, he has always strived to succeed as an entrepreneur. He is currently working on launching his upcoming company, The Matjar. Salman’s column conveys his message in a clear and concise manner with the sole goal of bettering the world.
Salman Karmostaji ( @S_Karmostaji)

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Article in brief: the author explains how ecommerce is rapidly growing in the MENA region and urges Emiratis to join the world of eCommerce.

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

A region that has been filled with conflicts and political instabilities might not seem like the ideal place for eCommerce to grow in but the ambitious entrepreneurs in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region have proven that there is great potential for eCommerce in this part of the world. The MENA population exceeds 350 million with a $425 billion (AED 1.56 trillion) retail market size, according to Wamda. The online population is at 110 million, accounting for more than 30% of the overall population. According to a study conducted by IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group), B2C ecommerce sales in the region saw a 45% increase between 2011 and 2012 jumping from $10 billion (AED 36.7 billion) to $15 billion (AED 55 billion) respectively. eCommerce in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alone is currently valued at $2.5 billion (AED 9.2 billion) and is expected to be valued at $10 billion (AED 36.7 billion) by 2018. While these numbers might appear lackluster beside the mature US & UK eCommerce markets, we have to look at the tremendous and rapid growth in eCommerce that the region has witnessed in the past few years.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that, a Dubai-based online store often tagged as the Amazon of the Middle East, was being valued at $1 billion (AED 3.67 billion) by investors. This made the largest ecommerce player in the region. For a company that has been around for no more than a decade, it has redefined what eCommerce is in the MENA region. Moreover, in February of this year, a food takeaway platform founded by a Kuwaiti, Abdulaziz Al Loughani, and later acquired by owner of Kuwait London General Trading, Mohammed Jaffar, was sold to Rocket Internet for $175 million (AED 642.7 million) making it the largest acquisition of an eCommerce business in the region. However, as you may have noticed, all of the ecommerce ventures I have mentioned so far are not owned by Emiratis.

While ecommerce in the region has skyrocketed in the past decade, especially in the UAE, Emiratis remain to be a rarity in this field. Most major eCommerce players that are operating from the UAE, such as and Namshi, are owned by non-Emiratis. Seeing how much more convenient it has become to launch an eCommerce platform with the emergence of a multitude of shopping cart software, payment processors and incubators, it is somehow shocking that Emiratis have not made use of those resources at their disposal. Emiratis need to jump on the bandwagon and become a part of this important journey that is going to redefine the future of retail and commerce in the region.

Not only do Emirati entrepreneurs have a small presence in the eCommerce market, but Emirati investors are also almost nonexistent in such fields. In a well-written piece, Omar Kassim, CEO and founder of JadoPado, an online marketplace based in Dubai, discusses the “poor regional funding climate” and how the lack of funding by regional and local investors has led major eCommerce players to be owned by outside investors.

All in all, eCommerce is the perfect gateway for ambitious Emiratis to lessen their reliance on governmental jobs and to embark on an entrepreneurial journey. ECommerce is still growing in the region and it is by no means at its peak; it is still at its infancy. However, an eCommerce boom will be occurring sooner rather than later in which we will witness significant growth in this market. Join the movement and make your mark before it is too late.

You Are The Butterfly Effect

Omar Albeshr (@ASRomar10)

Omar Albeshr (@ASRomar10)

Omar, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, holds a degree in Avionics Engineering, currently works in tourism. He hopes one day he would publish his novels and his poetry book. His column is an exploration with a message, about the origins of words, terms, phrases and the stories behind them.
Omar Albeshr (@ASRomar10)

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Article in brief: one small act could have a greater impact than you might expect.

Picture taken by Omar Albeshr

Picture taken by Omar Albeshr

I once had a doctor’s appointment and was walking towards the entrance of the hospital when I saw a policeman making his parking permit checking route. I looked around and noticed that one of the cars had a permit that expired 20 minutes ago. Luckily I had a couple of coins in my pocket and I got this car a fresh parking permit. Then I ran to catch my appointment.

At the time, I didn’t give it much thought. In my head, the owner of that car must have had some unforeseeable delay that prevented him from coming back to his car before his permit expired. If I could help prevent a fine that he might have gotten, maybe this could turn his day around knowing that a complete stranger made this gesture and saved him a AED 150 fine.

All of these were immediate and direct outcomes. But it is also possible that this person might choose to do something nice for someone else and that someone will carry the torch and do something good for another, and so forth.

To put this into perspective, I would like to refer to a concept that most of us, if not all, are familiar with. The Butterfly Effect is mostly tangled up with chaos theory and time travel, which makes some people rule it as utter nonsense. So what is this Butterfly Effect and where did the name of this concept come from?

It is a phenomenon where a small change that takes place in one area in a complex system, however minute this change is, it can have huge consequences and cause variances in another area. Edward Lorenz was the first to call it the Butterfly Effect referring to a metaphoric example that a teeny-weeny flap of butterfly wings can actually cause the path of a tornado to be altered, delayed or even stop it from ever occurring.

The little flapping wings of the butterfly represents a very small change in the system in its initial stages, provoking a series of events that will have gigantic alterations to events that eventually could affect large areas and people’s lives. Fun fact: Lorenz was actually studying seagulls at the time but calling it the Seagulls Effect would have been less poetic.

The term and concept has been used in pop culture for decades ever since, such as in the movies It’s a Wonderful Life, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and even a full feature movie under the same name, starring Ashton Kutcher.

So if a butterfly’s wings can stop a tornado, imagine and reconsider your actions, whether big or small, in changing the course of events. Every little thing we do in our lives can cause ripple effects that transcend our immediate surroundings and go beyond areas where our actions and consequences are so vivid.

Thus, do not let doubt distort your self-worth, your role is significant. Every individual among the billions sharing this planet, orbiting and hurling through this boundless universe, is important and can make a difference be it intentionally or not. So let us believe in our influences and begin to send positive ripple effects that could echo across time and space.