13 December 2016

Effat University Students Participate in SDG Conference

Effat University Students Participate in SDG Conference 

On 7 December 2015, Effat University and Chestnut Hill College students came together to participate in a video conference series at the United Nations with Global Education Motivators (GEM). The following reports detail the experiences of three of the students from Effat University.


Jawaria Ali Khan



Jawaria was “over the moon” when she found out she would be attending the Global Solutions Conference


On 7 December 2015, my classmates Rahaf, Hanan and I were informed that we would be participating in a video conference with Chestnut Hill College. We were ecstatic. The event began with an ice breaker video conference in which both sides briefly spoke about the educational and extra-curricular cultures and backgrounds within their respective universities. Later, it was an honour to hear about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from experts like Wayne Jacoby, Abdullah Alsultan, Patience Stephens, Pragati Pascale and Ramu Damodaran.


We were taught the differences between the 17 SDGs, and the former Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). What stuck with me was the fact that despite the differences in geographical and territorial borders, we all wanted global sustainable, positive and developmental change; and that we as youth were making an effort to get there. The time difference did however pose a slight challenge at the event.     


Sponsored by Effat University, the final stage of the video-conference entailed physically attending the Global Solutions Lab in Philadelphia, USA. We were over the moon! Ms. Duaa Dawood, Ms. Lisa Zuppe and Dr. Jannat Alabassi helped us through every step of the way.


In Philadelphia, we got the opportunity to explore the city. I was taken aback by the warmth and hospitality of its citizens. Unlike the city, the Global Solutions lab was intensive. It started with lectures from experts like Betsy Teutsch and Jim Walker, from whom we learnt about techniques and best practices to use in our project. Ms. Betsy’s presentation was my favourite, as we were taught about presently available low budget solutions.


I was part of the education group. After several in-group discussions, presentations and feedback from Medard Gabel we finally settled on the K.N.O.W. now Program. It was a very demanding but enriching process working in a team of fun and intelligent individuals.


Personally, the most crucial part of the entire experience was presenting at the UN. Aside from the actual presentation, I also got a tour of the various council chambers, the art and gifts from member states, the gift shop and the meditation room which was my personal favourite. There, I found a prayer rug on which I offered prayers (Salat) before the presentation.

All in all, the experience was enjoyable and fulfilling. It broadened my horizons and changed my perspectives. I learned a lot, gave it my all, and hope that I can participate in similar experiences in the future.


Rahaf Alisari


Rahaf calls her experience at the SDG conference “life changing.”


Buckminster Fuller once said, “We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims." This quote was given to us by Medard Gabel on our first day of the Global Solutions Lab. It implies that there are always ways to create a world we would like to live in.


Our journey began with the video teleconference series between Effat University, Chestnut Hill College and Global Education Motivators (GEM). The event started in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and moved to the USA. There we attended the Global Solutions Lab in Philadelphia before going to New York where we presented at the UN. I am proud to acknowledge the fact that Effat has made history, by being the first Saudi Arabian institution of higher learning to participate in this initiative. It broadened our understanding of the SDGs and also taught us how we can contribute to them as students.


At the Global Solutions Lab I worked within the human rights group, which had a very diverse membership composition. It comprised three other girls from Cambodia, America and Cameroon. This diversity was a great asset to our group as it enabled us to come up with all-encompassing solutions based on insights and perspectives from different regions in the world. The talent, diversity, motivation, passion and perspectives within all groups in the lab created a nourishing learning environment of healthy competition. This motivated each group to come up with excellent solutions through our individual group projects. During the lab, we not only came up with solutions but also had the opportunity to engage with UN officials and experts. In so doing, we received rare first-hand knowledge and input.


As with every new experience, there were challenges and the lab was no different.  But by overcoming the hurdles, we became more resilient and solution-driven. By the end of the series, the term “giving up” no longer existed in our vocabulary!


Through the videoconferencing series, I gained a broader perspective of the world and a desire to bring about positive change in my individual circumstances. I also made life-long friends! Who would’ve thought one could gain so much from a video conference series?


For me, the climax of the entire experience was in New York, where I enacted my life-long dream of presenting at the United Nations! It was a nerve wrecking and mind blowing experience. Following the presentation, discussions and feedback received about our human rights violations monitoring application, we were more motivated to press forward for the success of our project. We still have weekly talks as a group and are in the process of entering a competition. We are also working to ensure maximum outreach so that our application is downloaded and used globally.

That said, stay tuned for a generation of positive change one initiative at a time!

Hanan Altukhaifi




Hanan wishes to continue the work she started with UNAI and partner with her local NGOs.


“Each member of this spaceship is responsible for what happens to and in it.” This sense of responsibility led my colleagues and I at Effat University to initiate the Model United Nations club. Its mandate is to raise awareness of global issues among young women in our community. When we were later contacted by GEM to participate in the UNAI series, I was both thrilled and grateful, since I recognized the impact this would have on fellow students.

The series entailed multiple teleconferences between Chestnut Hill College and Effat University, where we engaged in inter-cultural dialogue while learning about the SDGs. Following the inspiring video conference from Mr. Jacoby and other speakers from the UN, I felt accountable and decided to apply to the Global Solutions Lab in Philadelphia.

At the lab, we learned how to analyze global problems. My personal favorite was the Zero Hunger Challenge. It was a life changing experience to work towards a common solution with teammates from different parts of the world. Sayondee from Liberia, Jonathan and James from the United States and I, worked as a team on a project we later named the Food Depot. It is a hub in rural areas that lends agricultural tools to farmers in Liberia. Our hope is that the hub will encourage farmers to migrate from urban areas to the vacant lands in rural parts of Liberia.

The hub also provides farming information that can be used to improve on traditional techniques. We would like to be practical enough to attract neighboring entrepreneurs to sell their own farming products.

With assistance from UN personnel like Domenica Sabella, a communications officer with the World Food Program, we presented our project to the United Nations and received important feedback and guidance.

The project is still work in progress. My teammates and I have been in touch with local NGOs to assist with data collection and cooperation. We are also in the process of setting up an online meeting with the D-Lab in MIT for further collaboration.