In this article, Maysoon Hussein describes Saudi Arabian teenage political activism.
The nation of Saudi Arabia has continued to develop and innovate in the past decade more than ever before, and while there are many factors that have led to that, one of the main ones would have to be the teen activism that occurs. Activism in Saudi Arabia is very prevalent and alive, from young kids to teen leaders to adults, there are many opportunities here for people to stand up for what they believe in and try to make an impact. One type of activism that has become very common that I am a part of is regarding the environment. The youth of Saudi Arabia has made it a mission to make sure that we are able to preserve our country and lower our use of plastic as much as possible. One way includes setting up volunteering programs to clean up, which is what the Saudi Youth Ambassadors have made as a mission the past year. Every week, around 20 volunteers are assigned a place to clean up while others create infographics to present to the public, all of this has resulted in many changes in the nation, where it has become not only cleaner but also more environmentally friendly, with many shops turning to paper straws instead of plastic like Starbucks. There has also been a zero-hour chapter opened in both here and Bahrain, which were the first-ever ones in the Middle East. There are competitions for environmental-themed art opened by the government and government programs like Misk have also made it a mission to get students involved in making healthier and more conscious choices.
One of the most influential types of activism in the nation come through Model United Nations conferences. There are a plethora of conferences conducted every year in Saudi Arabia, all with themes that support sustainable development and its themes. One of these examples is my own conference, Dammam Model United Nations, that was a part of the United Nations refugee challenge. In this challenge, we aimed to debate specific topics that involve refugees, racism and other prevalent world issues. We also had the privilege of presenting our final product to the United Nations refugee agency and make a difference in our community that we wanted to see. We raised thousands of dollars that went to various local nonprofits for the environment.
In addition to the environment, many teens here have made the initiative to create UNICEF chapters, for the first time in Saudi Arabia where they aim to raise money and host fundraisers for the disadvantaged children and citizens. These chapters continue to grow and grow, and now have over 50 members each. With these chapters, we were able to reach a wider audience of people and commit to our cause and really make the difference we want to see in the world for these children.
Lastly, there have also been many political activism waves in Saudi Arabia. And while Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, there are many local elections for people to vote in, and they always have their voices heard in governmental decisions. Until recently, women were not allowed to vote, but it was through many brave Saudi women, who not only fought for their rights to vote but also their rights to drive that the nation was able to progress forward and allow women to do so. There are still many organizations here that advocate for women in politics such as the organization for the protection and defense of women’s rights, which have fought to get female representation in the government and to make sure that their voices are heard in many aspects. Women have been fighting for generations upon generations here, and because of these organizations, they have been able to progress, but still have a very long way to go. There are many things that can be improved in the nation and with the help of political activism from the youth, there is a very big chance that the nation will continue to progress in the next few years as it has been doing. Because of political activism here, Saudi finally opened its first mixed-gender cinema in 2019, started having concerts, allowed women to drive, and has removed strict rules regarding female attire, and that is only the beginning.
To sum it all up, with the new changes in Saudi Arabia due to youth activism has resulted in even more youth making it a mission to advocate for the things they love, and for the things that they want to change in the country. And with that, they have been able to achieve things that the citizens would have never thought of happening, showing how big of an impact activism can be on a nation, regardless of its government type. This is a motivation to every teen wherever they might be on the globe that they can make a difference, whether big or small it can be acknowledged and result int he changing of something that they never thought was possible. So while we are all at home, it might be the right time to start brainstorming what we might be able to do and how can we do it and open our eyes to the endless possibilities.