Youth advocacy is a term that has become cliché, milked to death by countless politicians and NGOS. Just listen to the term: “youth advocacy.” Sounds pretty sexy, right? It is certainly appealing to the 1.2 billion people across the planet who are classified as ‘young persons’ by the United Nations. Empowerment without substance, however, is no empowerment at all. That is why young men and women should be extremely careful when looking for mentors, making sure to single out only masters of the craft, rather than imitators or wannabes.
This is where Thuraya Ismail comes in.
A Saudi entrepreneur and a top-ranking youth leader, Thuraya is still young, not much older than the young people with whom she works with. Her ability to speak a language that young people understand, gives her an advantage over many of her colleagues.
With an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics, Thuraya has spent the last decade advocating for Arab youth. She started as UNDP Senior Coordinator and moved on to become Executive Director of Mentor Arabia, an award-winning foundation dedicated to empowering children and youth. Thuraya took them by the hand and led them, step-by step, towards what it means to lead healthy lifestyles, for them and their societies.
Ismail’s achievements have been acknowledged by international organizations. In recognition of her leadership skills and expertise in humanitarian work and social development she was recently selected for the prestigious Women Leaders Eisenhower Fellowship, honoring the top 25 women leaders across the globe. The fellowship provided an outstanding opportunity for her to connect with top CEOs and leaders worldwide. It was an eye-opener for new opportunity and innovation. She was also notably the first Arab to win the Leading Practitioner Honor award from the European Union Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR), which is awarded for outstanding leadership in the adoption and implementation of evidence-based prevention strategies, establishing her as a mentor for practitioners around the globe, and an inspiration for youth in the region.
With Thuraya Ismail onboard, Mentor Arabia has diversified its objectives and pivoted towards areas such as capacity development, art advocacy and knowledge generation. Thanks to her networking acumen and determined vision, she has succeeded in helping propel the foundation as a strategic hub for youth-related issues, and partnered with more than a hundred entities, celebrities and businesspeople. Thuraya was instrumental in expanding Mentor Arabia’s activities to more than twelve Arab countries, with a staggering one million beneficiaries. Under her leadership, Mentor Arabia programs were expanded to include thousands of underprivileged children, youth, mothers, and refugees. Schools across the region benefitted from integrated international life-skills programs, creating strong impact through awareness and prevention. As a result, the foundation’s work has been acknowledged and awarded by esteemed regional and international institutions including the EUSPR and the Takreem Foundation.