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Among the hundreds of young people gathered for the first One Young World youth leadership summit in London last week, there were three women from the Middle East with hopes to change the world.

Soumaya Maghnouj, Natasha Gautier and Ghina Mousa represented the Middle East at the summit that brought together young leaders aged 25 and under from 192 countries.

The three women, employees of the Dubai-based Chalhoub group, were sponsored by the company under its corporate social responsibility programme called Chalhoub Impact.

Participants endeavoured to address issues such as the environment, corporate social responsibility, interfaith dialogue, the changing media, economic justice and health.

Like any summit tacking international issues, the One Young World youth leadership summit consisted of six plenary sessions, each discussing and debating a major global topic.

The summit gave the young leaders an opportunity to interact with personalities such as Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate Mohammad Younus, former president of Peru Alejandro Toledo and legendary activist Sir Bob Geldof.

Maghnouj, 19, who is from Morocco but lives in Paris, said: "All the six issues tackled during the conference are important for the Middle East. But I believe that the most important issue to tackle right now is the empowerment of youth to be leaders in the region.

"The region needs youth and their creative ideas. During the conference, I met several delegates from the region who are rethinking the region and ready to take action."

Project ambassador

Maghnouj is a project ambassador for the One World Youth Project (OWYP), a non-profit organisation that facilitates partnerships between schools or youth groups worldwide. Its purpose is to spur cultural exchanges and community service towards the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Gautier, 22, is the youngest brand manager at Chalhoub. She hails from France but lives in Kuwait.

She believes the environment needs all the help it can get from young leaders. "In our region we are still far from systematically preventing pollution, implementing recycling, saving energy and water. These are fundamental resources that we need to take care of.

"It was one the best opportunities of my life. The conference proved to be an amazing networking opportunity," she said.

Mousa, 24, hails from Lebanon and presently lives in Kuwait. "I feel that interfaith dialogue and the changing power of the media are some of the key issues relevant to the region," she said.

One Young World was founded by David Jones, global CEO of Havas Worldwide, and Kate Robertson, Euro RSCG UK Group chairman. "The world is getting younger while the issues facing us grow more critical each day," Jones said. "But youth can play an important role in shaping the future."

 Chalhoub seeks to make an impact

Chalhoub Impact is the Chalhoub Group's corporate social responsibility programme (CSR) based on the belief that the company has a responsibility towards its employees, and to the community and society at large.

The objectives of Chalhoub Impact are to integrate CSR into its core business operations, to engage with its stakeholders at all levels and to develop partnerships that promote environmental and social development.


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