Yesterday was a special day for me and countless others, because it marked the successful completion of E7 Banat Al Emarat’s first female empowerment program in the UAE. This pilot produced 8 amazing community projects including Project Sukkar, Tamkeen, Ayalna, 16to26, My Message To You, Yala Saryna, Khatwaah and The Lotus Effect, which addressed everything from health, to cyber bullying, youth empowerment, female empowerment and social awareness for dyslexia.

Attending the class of 2015 graduation ceremony was a bittersweet moment for me, because it signified the end of a remarkable journey that began with my fellow E7 sisters and mentors last April. But it also marked the beginning of a new journey. Thanks to our participation in this program, not only can we become mentors for future generations of E7 classes, we now, also have the skills, knowledge and confidence to become (or continue to be) social  powerhouses in our own right.

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On behalf of The Lotus Effect team, which included Shibani Suri, Aisha Al Bedwawi, Sally Dabbour, Marta Uriel and myself, and the rest of the community projects, I would like to thank Promise of a Generation, the E7 Banat Al Emarat initiative and their title sponsor Emirates NBD for investing in our future, the well-being of our community and the advancement of the U.A.E. I would also like to thank all of our project mentors, who spent countless hours on weekdays, week nights and weekends to make sure that our projects became the successes that they are. Last but not, to all the people and organizations who worked behind the scenes, thank you for supporting the empowerment of a new generation of female leadership.

As a proud E7 alumna, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage more cities in the UAE, the GCC and the MENA to implement initiatives like the E7 Banat Al Emarat program. In an initiative like this, everybody wins, because every stakeholder simultaneously shares and receives value. In the case of the E7 Banat Al Emarat initiative, I believe there were 4 main beneficiaries, who benefited in a variety of ways:

Class of 2015

  1. Participants:
  • This program allowed participants to get a taste of the entrepreneurial world without having to encounter all the challenges that most entrepreneurs face including securing funds, finding mentors, networking with social influencers and finding a passionate group of supporters.
  • Throughout the year-long program, the E7 team constantly provided participants with access to invaluable training and networking opportunities, which furthered enhanced our personal skills and expanded the scopes of our projects.
  • Through the E7 team, participants were also able to connect with seasoned professionals and social influencers, which opened the doors for new mentorship and employment opportunities.
  • The E7 program allowed participants to meet other passionate and motivated women, thus creating a strong network of sisters, who will continue to support each other and future generations of E7 participants.
  1. Mentors
  • The E7 program gave seasoned professionals in the UAE a meaningful way to give back to the UAE’s social and economic ecosystems.
  • Mentors were able to share their experience and expertise and empower a generation of future young female leaders in the UAE and beyond.
  • Through the mentorship program, mentors were also able to network with other UAE professionals, thus allowing them to find synergies and partners for their own professional growth.
  1. Corporations & SMEs
  • The E7 team provided Emirates NBD with a meaningful, structured and measured CSR program with long-term benefits to invest in.
  • The E7 platform was also a unique platform where mentors, many of whom are entrepreneurs themselves, could increase the visibility of their own business, while simultaneously promoting and nurturing the local ecosystem.
  • The E7 pilot program also provided a blue print for different cities, communities, startups and corporations, who wish to implement meaningful and long-lasting CSR programs in the region in the future.
  1. Community
  • The 8 community projects carried out by the E7 Banat class of 2015 benefited various cities and demographics in the UAE, by providing much needed awareness campaigns and empowerment programs.
  • The E7 community projects also provided UAE residents of all different ages, backgrounds and professions interesting and structured volunteering opportunities.
  • The E7 pilot program has provided other social influencers with a repeatable model that can be implemented in other cities in the UAE, the GCC and beyond.

As you can see, not only has the E7 Banat Al Emarat pilot program been a unique learning experience for the organizers, it has also been a powerful journey for the title sponsor, Emirates NBD, the local startup scene, UAE-based professionals, the community and, last but not least, my fellow sisters and I. During our graduation, one of the E7 team highlighted the importance of community building by sharing a beautiful African proverb that says…

African Proverb

In sum, with the right organizers, sponsors and participants, our communities and young millennials can go far, now all you readers out there have to do is take the first step. If you are interested in starting a similar initiative and you would like to learn more about my experience as an E7 participant, don’t hesitate to contact me at soukainarachidi@gmail.com

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