Jordan Youth Forum: Day 1

Day 2 also started off relatively badly for me, the bus was very late and we arrived to the convention center at around 11. That meant that I missed the opening session and half of the second main session. The second main session was about economical reform, education and creativity. Like the first main session the day before this one also meant that decision makers sat on stage and discussed certain problems within their sectors. Although each only had around 10 minutes they still succeeded at losing the interest of many of the people who were scattered across tables and not paying much attention.

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Basel Alsalem (Capital Bank administration and Jordanian senate), Mohammad Abo Qdais and Randa Ayoubi were among those who were on stage. They all presented problems that we have in our communities, problems we already know exist, and they did it very casually as if they were talking to a friend. They were not technical. They did not talk of any studies or statistics. They did not suggest any starting steps for the solutions of these problems. They only repeated that we have problems, gaps, issues, misunderstandings, and that we need the youth to take part in solving it all.

I only realized how bad their talks or speeches were when their time ended and the moderator (Thabet Nabulsi) suggested that they takes some questions from a few of the 1000+ participants. 3 or 4 young participants asked about various issues, one about scientific research, the other about immigrant laborers in industrial cities and so on. All the young men who asked had papers in their hands with questions written down supported by numbers and statistics. None of the decision makers on stage spoke in the professional manner the young people spoke in.

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The only person on stage during that main session that captured my attention was Randa Ayoubi, Founder and Chief Executive of Rubicon. It honestly felt like she was the only one on stage speaking straight out of 2011. She spoke to me, a 22 year old, and she made perfect sense. One of the very interesting things she said was that 6 out of every 10 kids will be later in life working in something we taught them nothing about.

After that came a break, and then the sub sessions. In the sub session (also 20 sessions at the same time) there were only 5 subjects or themes:

– Unemployment (4 sessions)
– Economic policies and approach (5 sessions)
– Poverty and living standards (4 sessions)
– Higher education policies (4 sessions)
– Institutionalizing creativity and innovation (3 sessions)

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The first session was from 11-2, followed by lunch then another session from 2:45-4:45. After finishing the sub sessions we headed for another break, then to the closing session in the main hall.

Also throughout the day we were free to enjoy the different movie screenings. Day 2 introduced:
– كابتن ابو رائد (Captain Abo Raed) By Amin Matalqa
– عمان شرقية غربية (Eastern Western Amman) By Dalia Alkury
– ID000 By Widad Shafago
– خذ نفس (Take a breath) By fellow blogger Mohammad AlQaq
– موت ملاكم (The death of a boxer) By Naji Abo Nowar

There was also a platform for free expression in which (as far as I understood) anyone can go up on and share whatever they felt like. Many university students did actually use it during breaks, sharing with us their poetry, writings or initiatives. Much of it was very superficial and not free expression at all. A guy and a girl even introduced us to their initiative that’s called ‘ishi w mino’. They said, we want freedom of speech, bas ishi w mino. We want to speak our minds and go out in demonstrations bas ishi w mino. We want to do this and that, bas ishi w mino. I was quite surprised they were being very happy and proud of this ishi w mino idea. All young men and women are fighting to make their voices be heard and these 2 were nicely saying ‘no, we fine the way we are’. So yes I understand that not all people have the same thinking abilities, bas ‘ishi w mino’.

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The closing session came with a few surprises. First they screened a short video on the forum with comments from some young men and women and some feedback from within the forum itself. Then came the interesting part, 4 young men and women got up on stage and read the resolutions and suggestions that were put together by the forum organizers as a summary of what’s the participants talked about within the sub sessions.

Once the 2 main presenters got back on stage, the female, Mays Shakhabneh said that these 4 people reading the resolutions were elected by us the participants. Many people expressed that what she said was not true, no one had elected anyone. The male presenter Thabet Nabulsi then proceeded to call this a joke and say that it was a test to see if we’d defend ourselves and voice out that this was not true. This and the fact that the recommendations and suggestions that were just read were not exactly perfect ended up in creating some chaos within the main hall.

In a show of full democracy and freedom of speech Thabet asked that a few people be given a microphone to say what they’re complaining about. This led to a back and forth discussion in which Mays apologized ‘IF’ what she said was not true. She did not admit to it being wrong, but said that if it’s not true then she apologizes for her statement.

A friend of mine afterwards communicated to me that some people from the organizing committee were attending different sessions to pick 4 individuals who spoke in clear and strong Arabic. Whether that statement is true or not is unknown, but what we’re sure of is that no one elected those 4 who got on stage.

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One of the issues that stirred up a huge discussion that later turned into shouting was about the fact that a suggestion from ‘one’ of the sub sessions on political parties was not approved by most people, and was included in the final suggestions. One group in one of those sessions suggested that every political party has to have at least 5000 members, otherwise it should not be a legal political party. That point, being a very critical one that was not approved by all participants and still being written down and read in the final suggestions was unacceptable to many people who made it quite clear.

The disagreeing soon turned into yelling and was followed by loud music to try and cover up the shouting of a few individuals while the rest proceeded to leave the main hall as the closing event came to an end. The closing session was the reason behind many people leaving back to their homes quite disappointed , the opposite of how they arrived. I was personally disappointed too.

That was the end, people picked up their things and headed outside towards the buses that took them back home. Were you there? Any thoughts?

In the next post I will be talking about the 4 sub sessions I attended, about the final resolutions and trying my best to compare the ones read to us with the ones we wrote down during the sub sessions. Stick around.