TEDxJeddah speakers challenge Arab world norms

TEDxJeddah speakers challenge Arab world norms

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Layan Damanhouri
Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH – At the annual TEDx event, where motivational talks aim to spread inspirational ideas to the community, speakers from different domains attempted to answer the question of this year’s theme: “What if?”

“Your presence here today is proof that each one of you want to change,” Saleh Alsulami, senior general manager of Kaizenhaa, told a packed hall of attendees at the event held at Batterjee Medical College on Saturday.

He urged individuals to move forward and add positive change in their lives.

Kaizenhaa, a Saudi adoption of the Japanese concept of continuous improvement, is one of a series of local initiatives frequently emerging in the Kingdom.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Alaa Tammar, who emceed the event with her husband Bader Mardini, said the theme of this year’s conference is significant for those who want to change to avoid living an ordinary life, adding that her personal experience in switching to a new career makes her wonder what if she hadn’t.

Speakers tackled a wide variety of universal issues tying them to an Arab context. “With 43 percent of Saudis are reported to be happy individuals, we need to work on increasing that number,” said Mazen Binafeef, an expert on the philosophy of happiness. “We need to have more scientific research done on the study of happiness in the Arab World.”

Heba Kadi, writer and columnist in a local daily, stressed the need for putting ideas into action. About answering the question “what if”, she said one doesn’t have the courage to do so when people face several obstacles, which include “the toxic ailment of racism in society”.

On education, development coach Dr. Salah Meemar challenged traditional ways of raising kids, explaining, “We need to change our behavior toward children by teaching them skills how to think.”

Sudanese TED translator Dr. Anwar Dafa-Alla challenged more people to contribute to translations of TED talks, saying it’s time all talks should be translated into Arabic.

Avid reader and author Mohammed Bahareth, whose own books were distributed among the audience, said his experience with dyslexia didn’t prevent him from reading over 5000 books and publishing several books in Arabic and English.

Despite never attending a TEDx live conference, KAUST ambassador Amal Khotani told Saudi Gazette, “I overcame my fears by speaking on stage.” “I spoke about the importance of computing intelligence and how we can develop a new way of thinking instead of acting as consumers only,” she said. “The question of ‘what if’ really makes the mind think.”

Additional speakers discussed topics in awareness, societal behavior and success stories of struggling with disabilities and other obstacles. The event also included entertainment segments with Saudi rapper Anas Al-Mokhtar, who discovered his talent during a bout with diabetes, and a finale performed by renowned singer and X-Factor winner Hamza Hausawi.

MiSK Foundation, in collaboration with Arabneurs, hosted this year’s TEDx event in Jeddah and announced that all talks will be uploaded on YouTube with English subtitles.

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