Powered by UNICEF Lebanon, funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the German Cooperation (KFW), and organized by the Nawaya Network, the first edition of Hakaya GIL was hosted on May 4th at the USJ campus (Damascus Road), where 10 youth shared their moving stories of their triumph over obstacles in their lives through sheer will and perseverance.
During this inspirational story-telling event, the audience had the chance to hear the details of these courageous young individuals’ struggles through poverty, loss, illness, war, displacement, and above all, the closed doors of opportunity. However, they managed to overcome their difficult circumstances by accessing knowledge related to innovation, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through UNICEF Lebanon’s “Generation of Innovation Leaders (GIL)” program.
GIL, powered by UNICEF and implemented by the Nawaya Network, DOT Lebanon and Injaz, is a program designed to address the high unemployment rates among youth nationwide and their lack of access to the knowledge economy. GIL Innovation Labs operate nationwide to make sure the program reaches those residing even in the most secluded and marginalized areas. In these labs, youth are provided with trainings, workshops, and events where they discover new opportunities, network with like-minded people, and develop their digital and entrepreneurial skills.
In fact, some of the GIL participants managed to accomplish a qualitative change in their lives by becoming knowledgeable and innovative entrepreneurs and developing their own products ready for sale. Proud of their accomplishments, this event offered them the chance to showcase their achievements and their products in a specified marketplace section that was visited by the UNICEF management, all the program partners, the media, etc.
During the opening of Hakaya GIL, Celine Akkary, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Nawaya Network, said: “This yearly event is the dearest to our hearts. It’s not only a testimony to the efficiency of our program but it proves that Lebanon’s youth have incredible potential, and they just need to be surrounded, equipped with knowledge, and guided to implement their great ideas. The youth have always been a catalyst for change and improvement for the whole country, and we are thankful to UNICEF for believing in them and their potential.”
Believing that real inspiration leads to effective change, Hakaya GIL was scheduled in parallel to another UNICEF GIL project, “Girls Got IT”, where more than 600 girls were introduced to a world of potential in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). This elevated the impact and synergy of the event whereby the Hakaya GIL youth got to be an inspiration to those 600 girls who clearly witnessed that, with enough will and knowledge, the impossible can be accomplished.
UNICEF Lebanon Representative, Tanya Chapuisat, said during the event: “Story-telling has connected humanity ever since its existence. Even before we could read and write, humans told stories through cave drawings and over fires and these stories that have passed on have shaped our species and continue to weave the past, present and future together. At UNICEF we tell stories all the time. We tell stories to increase awareness about the struggles of children around the world, to influence and to make the world a safer place for children. We also tell these stories to inspire others to get behind our cause and support us. Stories are not just for entertainment; stories have the power to change the realities by moving people to take action. And the youth we have today chose a story of hope over fear, a story of triumph over defeat and above all story of self-determination.
Akkary concluded: “Generation of Innovation Leaders program (GIL) continues to make a real difference in our youth’s life, changing their outlook on life where hope seems to be lost, and empowering them to become the successful entrepreneurs they are fully able to become. And we hope that, in the future, more youth will get to join our program and that our growing community will be able to make a real difference in our country.”