Inspired by her father's stories, a young Saudi Arabian girl moves closer toward her vision for herself, her community, and the world.
By Razan Alaqil
Razan Alaqil at the 2016 Winter Youth Assembly
My father always told me about the day he would take me on a summer trip to the United States. The land of opportunities sounded like a magical world through my father's stories. The image of New York City, with its skyscrapers and busy streets, was engraved in my mind through his words. Now that I have been living here for almost two years, I have my own story to tell about the country that not only gave me new hope, but which also offered me more things to dream about. Here I am, writing from New York City after attending the United Nations Youth Assembly. A dream that always lived within me has become a reality these past few days.
I arrived to New York on a delayed flight and I had forty minutes to drive from JFK to midtown Manhattan to get my ID to enter the UN. That was impossible according to my taxi driver. But luckily I was there within exactly 39 minutes and I managed to meet with the staff of the event and receive my ID with instructions for the big day. My excitement was indescribable upon reading the
agenda, and I was truly happy to be standing beneath all of these skyscrapers. Right there, I realized, one my dreams was coming true. When I was 15, I saw some ads about the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, and it simply sounded like a "cool" idea for me to go and attend. But now, it's actually real. It's my time to meet with people, ask questions, bring my voice to the hall that shaped our present, past, and future. Now, I can actually start making a difference by
learning and bringing all those lessons back home to make an influence and start changing something. My dream came true, and it was my time to live it and make the most out of it.
I woke up early on the Assembly's first day. I walked to the United Nations Headquarters knowing that I wanted to leave that building with something that would help me change my community. The flags of hundreds of nations flying outside the UN in the blue sky and clear air reminded me that each nation fought for its unity and independence somehow. We are free today because of everything our ancestors did for us. And I was standing there that morning with a lot of pride in my heart for that green flag that I was about to represent.
We gathered outside the Great Hall of the UN and I met different young people with the same interests as me. Each person came to the assembly with a goal and a lot of hope to make a difference. There were 70 countries participating and over 300 delegates who traveled just so they could attend the event. Imagine young people, from different parts of the world, different countries, different colors, different religions, all uniting together to make this world a better place. Our dreams of a greater future brought us together under one roof.
We entered the majestic General Assembly Hall and I thought to myself that that is where world leaders came together to discuss world problems and solutions. I was actually walking in their footsteps. Gandhi once said "There's no path to peace, peace is the path." I put this statement in mind, took a seat, and started the assembly. We had different speakers and each one was extremely passionate about his or her job. Their words engaged us in the UN's work. Young people, fresh minds, a lot of hope, and one future for all. When I glanced around the room, there was nothing but positivity for a better tomorrow.
The UN has 17 Sustainable Development goals that are set to be accomplished by 2030. They asked us "How do you see the world at that time?" Some said peaceful, green, equal, safer, and there were 100 other responses. This is our world, if we want to make it better, then we have to start working on these 17 goals of transforming it to the world we want. We have generations coming after us, and we have the future awaiting us. There's a lot that can be done, but with
cooperation and work, we can actually make a difference.
My two-day trip to New York City is an accomplishment not just for me, but to girls and youth back home in Saudi Arabia and around the world. We can make a difference in this universe, and we can bring our country's voice to this global platform. If we believe in ourselves, then we will succeed. We've been developing a lot in the last few years, so let's continue leaving our positive
footprints wherever we go. Peace is what Islam means, so let's walk this path and accomplish a lot for humanity and mankind. Gandhi also said "I am who I am because of who we all are." My participation at the Youth Assembly is for all of us back in the Middle East. We are the youth of today, so let's work together to accomplish the UN's 17 goals and make our present great, and our future a bright one.
Besides the UN, I took back with me new memories of New York City to add to my father's tales. He was with me through it all. He taught me all about self-independence and leadership. He showed me through his acts what it really means to be a loyal citizen to my country. I will work on the present to make a better future because that is exactly what he would have wanted me to do. My favorite quote says "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Let's all live based on this, because if we unite together for the good, then our lives will be rich in happiness.
This post is a part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with Friendship Ambassadors Foundation following the 2016 Youth Assembly at the United Nations held on February 17-18, 2016. The winter session tackled the role of youth in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To see all posts in the series, click here.