It was the end of the first day of the Empower 2016 youth conference, hosted by Reach Out To Asia in Doha, Qatar, and everybody was ready to be done. The only thing standing in their way was the panel discussion that I was scheduled to be a part of. After a short presentation from the moderator, all three panelists, myself included, walked on stage one by one and sat down. The first panelist took the microphone and gave a brief introduction of herself and quickly passed the microphone to me. As I looked out into the crowd, I could feel their exhaustion and restlessness and to me that only meant one thing. I had to do something worth paying attention to. And that’s exactly what I did.

“Hi everyone, my name is Soukaina Rachidi and I am the founder and author of a blog called Soukie Speaks, but today I’m here to talk about a community project that I worked on last year. But before I do that, there is something you need to know about me. I HATE sharing attention with people and if you’re talking, that means you’re not listening. So, I don’t have your full attention. Can you raise your hands if you can hear me? (Some hands go up in the crowd)  Can you please raise your hands if you can hear me? (More hands go up in the crowd) Can you raise your hands if you can hear me? (All hands go up in the crowd). Excellent, now I’m ready to speak.”

Throughout the conference, I used that tactic to get people’s attention. In fact, it was so effective, that people started getting quiet any time they saw me getting on the stage. I became the #RaiseYourHand girl. But it wasn’t until I left the conference and I went home13077191_10153973012021839_1348453522_n that I realized the power of that phrase. I realized that it wasn’t just a tactic to get a restless crowd to settle down. It was a powerful mantra, the key to a better life. How many times have you been afraid to put your hand up in school, because you didn’t want the other kids to think you were too smart? How many times have you been afraid to raise your hand in a work meeting to share an innovative idea, because you didn’t think it was good enough? How many times have you shoved your hands in your pocket when somebody asked for volunteers for an amazing opportunity, because you were just too scared to take it?

The #RaiseYourHand movement is a call to action, not to silence, but action. That day, when I asked the crowd to raise their hands, I didn’t do it because I wanted them to be silent. I did it because I wanted them to be fully present in the moment. We all have moments in our lives, but not all moments are created equal. Some moments decide who we are and some decide who we aren’t. Every time we decide not to raise our hands, is a moment that we allow mediocrity to rule our lives. While blending in might give you some sense of security, standing out gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment that cannot be rivaled. We need more people to raise their hands, because we need more leaders to empower our communities. But this change can’t begin, until our community members feel they deserve better opportunity themselves.

Most of my life, I have chosen to speak first, go first, volunteer first etc. Whatever it was, I chose to be the first, because thankfully, somewhere deep in my psyche, I knew that I deserved it. Now, it’s time that our Arab youth and you, my dear reader, believe it too. I’m inviting you to join the Soukie Speaks #RaiseYourHand movement, so you can be a stronger version of yourself, both for yourself and your community. This is your chance to take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, and stand out! I want you to change the world by changing the only thing you can change: yourself.

If you have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, please share this article and use the hashtag #RaiseYourHand. I also invite you to share a decision, moment or achievement that makes you feel proud, empowered or accomplished on any of these social media channels with the same hashtag! Share your accomplishment with me and I will share them with the world. Who knows, maybe your #RaiseYourHand moment will inspire somebody else’s!

Like what you see? Join the Soukie Speaks email list and follow my TwitterInstagram, Facebook accounts, so we can enlighten, support and empower the Arab leaders and entrepreneurs of the future together. 

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