I would like to share with you the website and the magazine where “my’ Environemtal short story was published.
Thank you Sally Souraya for your time, efforts and interest in my activism. I never expected in my life that someone will write my story in such an amazing style.
“I am an extraordinary climate activist”. This is how Nouhad Awwad introduces herself to the public on her website, flagging up a journey she is proudly leading in the field of environment and climate change since 2013 in Lebanon, the Arab region and around the world.
The seeds of this journey grew up gradually with her, in the way Nouhad was raised by her mother. As a kid, she was taught to keep her environment clean. “It started purely as a religious way of living with and respecting nature, but then it turned to become a strong passion to environment”. By the age of fourteen, Nouhad started joining initiatives to clean the beach. Since then, she incorporated environment in all aspects of her life and advocated for it using different means: from blogging about nature to developing small initiatives and delivering trainings on solid waste, etc. Whilst her parents wanted her to be a medical doctor, Nouhad confidently knew that environment was her meant-to-be path. She refused to attend the medics’ exams and stood up for her choice, “I told them, this is not me! This is not my life! I want to study environment”. With this firm determination, she studied BSc. in environmental health and a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences with a focus on environmental policy planning.
As an activist, Nouhad is part of the Arab Youth Climate Movement and The Mediterranean Youth Network. She was part of the Lebanese official delegation to COP21 and COP22. In 2017, she has been elected as YOUNGO focal point to empower youth to have a voice at UNFCCC and promote youth participation in local and national climate change projects.
By becoming part of a bigger global movements on climate change, Nouhad did not lose her focus on the environmental issues faced in her country. She is confident that her participation in big global conferences and events, as a representative of Arab youth, is ultimately paying off. She is investing all the knowledge and skills she gains in pushing for better environmental policies in Lebanon. Nouhad’s participation at local and international level intertwines and complements one another. She is aware of the importance to keep a balanced contribution to the local, regional and international levels. Nouhad is currently working on numerous grassroots campaigns for climate justice issues in Lebanon. She develops various local initiatives to serve protecting the environment and safeguarding a sustainable future.
Whilst only a few women in the MENA region are climate activists, Nouhad believes that this does not necessarily reflect a lack of interest from the women themselves, but more a mentality and pattern, where women continuously face pressure to tick some boxes made for them. It is how they are unfortunately raised and repeatedly reminded to fulfill certain expectations: “Women here are expected to be married and have children”. This is what Nouhad and other women keep facing in their society. She is often asked endless questions such as “Until when are you going to do this? Time will pass and you will start to realise that your choices were wrong. Get married! Get a stable job! What is the benefit of being a climate activist? You are wasting your time. No one is going to listen. Nothing will change. Decisions are in the hands of big people!”. The list of questions goes on, and Nouhad’s perseverance too: it goes on and on and on. Nouhad believes “Climate activism is like a snowball, which will grow with time. Our small work today will be that big ball down the hill one day”.
As a young Lebanese woman wearing Hijab, none of these aspects of her identity seemed to be an obstacle to her journey, or at least she does not let them. She considers her identity as part of her journey as an advocate. She tries to break the stereotype about Middle East, where women are often seen to be passive and not empowered enough to drive or contribute to the changes needed in their communities. Wherever she is, whether speaking on an international panel, or writing on her online platforms, Nouhad speaks up for what does not seem to be obvious and clear for the global community: “We, young women in the Middle East, care for the environment. We are determined to be active and drive change”.
On the other hand, Nouhad’s message to women in the Middle East, who might not be aware of how much they could contribute to protect the environment they live in: “You are not expected to be climate activists, joining initiatives to clean the beach or going on marches to advocate for policy changes, to be contributing to environmental movements! By raising your children to be environmentally oriented, you will be doing a great favour to the environment. Start from there and do simple things such as turning off the lights when they are not needed, using less plastics, etc. Small easy steps can be done and they all count”. Nouhad believes that what we are missing nowadays is “the feeling” of being aware, connected and united with nature. “We are made of nature. We are part of it. Everybody is born as a nature’s advocate and we work on returning to this by real doings. If we believe in this, everything will change”.