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EMPOWER 2014 kicks off in Doha

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EMPOWER 2014 kicks off in Doha

Reach Out To Asia’s sixth annual youth conference on leadership, service learning and global citizenship started with an opening ceremony that sets the stage for the next two days.

Reach Out To Asia’s EMPOWER conference began on 27 March at the Qatar Foundation Student Centre in Doha.

Essa Al Manai, executive director of ROTA, began proceedings with a reflective speech on the history of the event and the role of sport in promoting social change. He pointed out that the event has grown from 140 participants six years ago to around 450 this year, and urged the young people attending, who passed a selection process which included interviews, to take full advantage of the opportunity.

The audience then heard from ROTA’s chairperson, He Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. Described in 2013 as the ‘world’s most powerful woman in art’, she founded ROTA in 2005 and described its priorities in the Middle East and beyond, especially focusing on education and health.

Hassan Abdulla al Thawadi, chief executive of the Qatar World Cup bid, offered a defence of the much discussed mega event which will take place in the country in 2022. He argued that, by sharing the cooling technology to be used in stadiums, the event will allow other countries with hot climates to host major tournaments and said the World Cup will show the rest of the world that the Middle East is a hospital region to visit and sport is a tool to bring people together.

Doctor Auma Obama, founder and director of Sauti Kuu Foundation took to the stage, emphasising the need to redefine views of poverty. Africa has been bombarded with aid, she said, and people often talk about it as though it is one country. We should not make people feel needy or poor but empower them to be part of the solution.

A talk via a recorded video from the UN’s secretary general’s special advisor on sport for development and peace and two “youth power speeches” rounded off proceedings, providing additional perspectives on the use of sport in creating social change. The first night provided the context for the next two days, where attendees will have the opportunity to take part in seminars, panel discussions, speeches, workshops and off-site visits.

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Paul Hunt

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 23:00