First TEDx Youth held in Palestine, despite lack of financial support

Welcome to the First Ever TEDx Youth @ Al-Masyoon! read the screen, reflecting the excitement ahead of the event in Ramallah on Saturday March 3.

Standing in front of the screen was the instantly recognisable big red T-E-D lettering. A red carpet and media wall stood to the side of the stage and young volunteers, dressed sharply in suits with coordinated red ties, poured water for the 160 or so guests sat on round tables in a crowded hall.

TEDx events are independently organised offshoots of TED talks, a non-profit organisation ‘devoted to ideas worth spreading’. Organisers obtain a free license and guidance on hosting the event.

For once in Palestine, the permit was the easy part.

Nour Ghanem, a high school student in 11th grade, is the organising force behind the event in Ramallah.

Getting the license was really easy, Nour told Palestine Monitor. The challenging part was finding a sponsor.

Nour was seeking funding for the TEDx event. She approached banks and even an organisation which claims to help youth though told her; No, we don’t support this kind of thing.

Nour was asking for $3000. She approached companies such as the mobile operator Jawwal, which spend millions on advertising campaigns in Palestine, yet no one was willing to sponsor her endeavour.

She would have liked to make the event free to attend, but failing to secure funding, had to charge on the door.

In a similar theme, the Minister of Education, Sabri Saidam, had more words than action when he opened the event saying; I’m honoured and really proud of you guys � the future is yours and let’s make it a bright one. He then proceeded to make apologies that he was unable to stay for the duration of the Saturday afternoon event.

Nour grew up in Canada and the UAE. She saw TED events taking place there and thought why couldn’t this happen in Palestine? Following the success of this event � she had a last minute rush of people applying to speak � she would like to make it an annual event.

Nine speakers, ranging from an educational psychologist to a ju-jitsu World Champion, spoke in either Arabic or English on themes including perseverance, innovation, modern education, public speaking and writing.

It was the youngest speakers who stole the show.

Masa Melhem is still in high school in Ramallah. She would like to go on to study law. She spoke about the value of the grey area, applying it to themes as broad as gratitude, modernism vs tradition and the mentality of occupation.

While the politics of the occupation were naturally referred to in passing in several speeches, it did not make up the focus of any of the talks.

Instead, the young people shared their thoughtfulness and passions on subjects close to their hearts.

Being Palestinians we have a special gift for changing routes, said Amal Darwish, referring to her talk on the need to update education from traditional settings.

One of the speakers, Maher Al-Shafil, a graduate of Arabic Literature and English translation at Birzeit University and now a student of music, who also happens to be blind, closed the event by playing and singing Arabic songs on his guitar.

Lead photo: Masa Melhem, a senior in high school, delivered her speech on ‘The Grey Area.’

Source: Palestine Monitor