Panel at JWEF Bahrain

Firstly Happy International Women’s Day 2016 to all the fabulous ladies out there and the men who appreciate them! Every IWD I write a blog about a story or message relating to my work on the advancement of women and this one is a special one about a moment that happened very recently that really shocked me and to those who ask ‘but why do we even need IWD still?’ – this is why!

Last month, I was invited to deliver a range of programmes with InspirEngage International in Bahrain. I’m no stranger to the region and had even previously delivered our Bootcamp in Bahrain. This time I was at the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum- a gathering franchised across the world with the aim of supporting young people to launch their own businesses. Let me paint the scene. It’s day 2 of the conference, 200 people in the room, mostly young people (university students) but on the left side of the auditorium were 50 or so young boys aged 15/16. I’m on stage on a judging panel of an enterprise competition alongside a director of Intel and a gentlemen from one of the UN agencies. He’s talking about the general enterprise community of Bahrain and at one point he asks almost as a rhetorical question aimed at the young boys; “Would you guys ever work under a woman”. Before he’s finished his sentence, a few of the boys shout determinedly; “NO!”

The gentleman pauses but continues his talk generally. Once he’s finished, it’s time to announce the winner of the enterprise competition – but I can’t let it go. I take the mic and say “it’s my moral obligation to challenge you on what you said, in fact it’s all of our social responsibility” – my aim wasn’t to attack but to understand, so I asked if we could speak about it and why they said they would never work under a woman. One of the braver boys who had been most adamant answers “because men are more responsible” This interested me – so I said, “ok so what about if the woman had earned her way justifiably to the senior position – she was great at it, responsible and deserved it – would you work under her then?” – he still said “NO!”

By this point, the gentleman at my side was whispering in my ear to let it go and that they’re just young. The gentleman from the UN was back on the mic by this point saying that in Islam, prophet Mohammad worked for a woman and that it’s important to remember that, but then said something which deeply troubles me; “it’s women who raise children” so basically, if boys think like that then the mother is to blame. They were keen to move things on – and I didn’t even have a mic – so without a mic I persevered (not shown in video clip): I appreciate that every culture is different, religion is different and yes, places like the UK aren’t perfect in equality of gender either (in fact, we also have a long way to go) and this wasn’t about those specific boys, but about us questioning long-held beliefs that we automatically hold and thinking about the consequences of what our beliefs mean. I made the point that raising children and shaping society is more than just women’s responsibility – we all have a power to influence outcomes, and what point would there be to support the girls in the room to launch a business if half the population wouldn’t work for them- especially when Bahrain has no end of talent and potential, which was evident in our Bootcamps. More importantly – our societies are shaped by what we think, say and do; it wasn’t immediately about those boys but about the message it would give out to accept those views.

As I spoke passionately – I looked around at the faces of the women, wondering if they would step in or had a view on it. But the room was silent.

After the panel - the reaction of girls and boys

Interestingly, afterwards, a notable number of the women came up to me thanking me for speaking up, saying they were horrified too. We had an interesting conversation but I made it clear- “next time you hear something which you think should change and is wrong; in your own respectful way, speak up or you’re part of the problem”. I look up and 2 of the young boys from that group were there too – one said “we just wanted to come up to you and apologise on our friend’s behalf- hope it didn’t offend you.” I replied; “Thank you so much – that’s very mature of you. This isn’t about me and it’s not personal. This is about us provoking thought to create change. Here’s an idea – why don’t you go back to school and suggest to a teacher to have a discussion with the boys about this issue”. That was my bottom line aim in speaking out- not for people to adopt my thinking but to provoke thought and let people question opinions they’d previously held without considering an alternative. That’s how change starts.

We are all part of the solution.

For all enquiries: melody@inspirEngage.com
Tweet/ Ig: @Melody_Hossaini
Web: MelodyHossaini.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

InspirEngage Bootcamp on Social Enterprise at JWEF by Melody Hossaini

During the week of 15th February, The InspirEngage team carried out a tour of activities in Bahrain, including Skills Bootcamps at Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum (JWEF), our Business Masterclass for SMEs as well as a stop on the international speaking tour ‘How to Change The World’. It was our second time in Bahrain, having previously delivered the InspirEngage Bootcamp training young professionals from across the MENA region to launch their own social enterprises relating to the environment, in partnership with the British Council. Here’s a breakdown of what we got up to and what we learned.

InspirEngage Skills Bootcamp

InspirEngage Bootcamp Day2

The JWEF brought together hundreds of young aspiring entrepreneurs. On the programme were a range of panels and speakers. But our stance was – magic happens when you take inspiration and turn it into action in that moment when a window of opportunity opens in your mind. This is what the Bootcamp was for. Covering the practical aspects of building an actionable plan from an idea. We delivered the Bootcamp in 2 parts- the first focusing on setting the foundation by training the participants to use our tool called ‘Career Map’ to define their goal, their identity and strengths as well as setting the right mindset for impact. The second part was hands-on and high energy including helping participants to understand social enterprise as well as putting it all in practice with our social enterprise task. They amazed us with their concepts and proved that although at the start, none of them really knew what social enterprise was- by the end of it, so many were aspiring social entrepreneurs- helping people to turn passion into profit.

‘How to Change the World’ – Speaking to Students

As Melody Hossaini’s signature speaking tour – we made a stop at Al Rajaa School in Bahrain to speak to hundreds of excited students! The presentation focuses on provoking thought in students about success and impact as well as share actionable tools and methods for ensuring their individual potential being fulfilled. The students and teachers were blown away by Melody’s interactive style – including having students up to take part in a shock-exercise. The students were eager, energised and stayed around for a long time to ask lots of questions sparked by ideas they had!

Business Masterclass for SMEs

InspirEngage Business Masterclass for SMEs

As part of supporting the growth of the eco-system as a whole in Bahrain, it’s vital to engage SMEs. For this reason, we designed an interactive ‘Business Masterclass’ hosted by Bahrain SMEs Society and the British Council. Participants were taken through a range of exercises to consider their place in the market, their social impact models and how to adopt a mindset shift leading to organisational transformation. What struck us was the fear that exists amongst people to share their ideas for risk of someone stealing their concept and replicating it. We had a fascinating dialogue on this, with us sharing the network models and changing face of business to be much more transparent.

 

Facilitating Panel on Success Stories of Local Entrepreneurs

Success Stories of Local Young Social Entrepreneurs

On day 1 of the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum, Melody was invited to chair a panel of 4 young entrepreneurs from the region- Wafa Obaidat, Faisal Sherraif, Aysha Al Oraifi and Abdulrazag Al-Mutawa. We started with each panelist giving an overview of who they are and what they do. Melody then prompted them to tell tales of how they went from having an idea all the way to making it a success. Topics of discussion included whether starting when you’re young is a barrier or strength (most of the panelists felt that there young age worked in their favour although a couple of them did mention that sometimes they had to work hard to be taken seriously), the exact step-by-step of how they got started and got their first clients as well as their top tips for success for the aspiring entrepreneurs. Melody fielded questions from young people including from a 13-year-old who wanted to know if he was too young to get started. The panel’s advice – you’re not too young – go for it! Melody had some added words as someone who began in her sector aged 13 also. “Of course you can begin when you’re 13- but like anyone else starting a venture; do your research, speak to people who know that industry and be committed.”

It was a pleasure for us to be back in Bahrain and working to shape a strong eco-system of entrepreneurship – but one which is also socially responsible and allows young people to thrive. We wish all the young people and SMEs the best and look forward to their continued impact!

For all enquiries, email: info@inspirEngage.com

A few days ago, I posted the following video on my youtube channel, making my special announcement:

 

As said in the video, after working and helping communities across 100 countries and having spoken in over 50 countries, it’s always been a dream of mine to work with people in my own country. As you know, I was born in Tehran, but have never been back for business purposes. This August, I will be a keynote speaker at the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum being held in Teheran on 20th August 2015. I will be sharing my story and also outlining the importance of social enterprise in the new business world being created to over 500 participants. This will be followed by an InspirEngage Skills Bootcamp. Information on speaker profiles (and a very rare pic of me in Hijab) + conference info here > http://tehran2015.jwef.ir

Importantly, it will also be the first ever speech or training I have given in my own mother tongue! (my mum says I better get practising!)

Make sure to subscribe to the my youtube channel as there will be a video of the conference going up there (with behind the scenes!). As well as this, I have gathered some leading Iranian social media talents for a little hashtag campaign sharing my journey via #AroundTehranWithMelody (if you’re a social media influencer in Tehran, drop us an email to get involved info@inspirEngage.com).

For now I want to say thank you to everyone for your support and kindness, as always!

Kheyli mamnoun- ghadresho midounam, va dar Iran mibinametoun!

Melody