The search is on. Women between the ages of 18-to 25 years old, from all over the Sultanate of Oman regardless of background are being invited to become a Sidrah woman — an agent of change and a driving force behind future developments in Oman.
This ambitious programme crafted by Lahunna Oman will closely coach and mentor specially selected participants to help them expand their network by making possible sessions with ministers, under-secretaries, CEOs and entrepreneurs preparing them to assume the role of change agents in their communities.
Oman Daily Observer talked to Shatha bint Salim al Maskiry, founder Of Lahunna Oman, to dissect the programme better and to help understand what women participants will get and can expect once they join this game-changing initiative.
Can you tell us more about you and how you started Lahunna?
Lahunna Oman started as an initiative to pay tribute to Omani women, in all her forms: the nurturer, the worker, the leader, and to amplify her limitless value and inexhaustible contributions to society. Equally, it is a celebration of Omani men who compliment these inspiring women. With simple unrehearsed storytelling, we showcase the story of HER reality as an Omani woman, through her lived experience, in all its variations, and also from the perspective of the men in her personal or professional life. Lahunna is essentially a continuation of the boundless support Omani women have received and continue to receive from our wise leadership. Our purpose is to inspire men, women, youth, nationals and residents alike, and by extension, the world by showcasing our unique traditions and values as a nation. The women behind Lahunna are all volunteers, daughters who have been raised by phenomenal mothers who have given so much to this community and country in different ways: as homemakers, entrepreneurs, parliamentarians, civil society leaders, you name it.
On a more personal level, Lahunna for me is a love letter to the men in my life. The men who exemplify integrity, honour and justice. It is a tribute to a lost brother, who embodied these very qualities.
I come from a business consulting background with a focus on the organisational transformation of people, culture and change. Having worked in diverse cities around the world, from California, New York, Hong Kong, and Beijing to Sanaa, Dubai and Qatar, I wanted to give back to the very community that embraced me and showed me how women are genuinely respected and valued in our society, no matter her status or what she chooses to pursue in life.
When crafting Sidrah, what particular characteristics in the young women participants are you looking for?
The current programme is open to Omani young women from the ages of 18-to 25 years old, from all over the Sultanate of Oman regardless of background. We are looking for young women who want to give back to the country, who are driven and passionate about Oman and who want to serve their own communities and the nation. The Sidrah woman is self-motivated, courageous, adventurous, creative, dependable, honest with a sense of justice, and ever-ready to go the extra mile. For the pilot programme, we are looking to ensure that our group is diverse in terms of age and geographic location.
Sidrah is a natural extension of Lahunna’s objectives; participants will understand they do not require championing or empowering — they have what it takes to excel within themselves, they simply need a springboard to unleash this potential within them. Knowing who they are, taking pride in their values and remembering their roots will instil a self-assurance to step into the future with confidence.
Our evaluation team made up of a diverse group of professionals is following a transparent assessment process; each applicant will be vetted using a qualitative and quantitative scorecard. The application forms we have received to date have intrigued us, offering insights into who these young women are, what they aspire to be and what inspires them.
Is there a target number of participants for the pilot programme?
Yes, there is but it is more about how we can provide the best learning experience and coaching environment led by Omani mentors. We also know that training people in smaller groups is far more effective and successful for learning attainment and knowledge retention.
You mentioned that this platform aims to challenge the status quo and nudge change. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?
Sidrah is not designed to address women’s concerns as much as it is to help them recognise that they have a voice. The Outward Bound Oman (OBO) and Lahunna teams, along with our international knowledge partner will reassure the young women that they can, and should, think strategically and reflect on issues of national importance. They will be invited to consider the challenges that face our youth today. Topics like employment challenges, skills development, and nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit are some examples. We will focus on providing them with a safe space to heighten their self-awareness and allow them to break their own self-limiting beliefs. The programme entails activities to test their resilience and collaboration and also to discover their own unique leadership mindset and identity. By the end of the programme, we expect participants to be more confident and courageous as well as inspired to serve a higher purpose.
The white papers that the young women will work on in phase two of Sidrah will truly be a reflection of their learnings — they will have a renowned expert guiding them as they hone their ideas and sharpen their focus on what they should be doing next. There are no right answers or awards; it’s all about growth.
For those who might find this programme intimidating, why is it important to give it a try?
Young Omani women are courageous and actively seek opportunities that will allow them to play a contributing role in society. Within a week of opening the programme up for registration, we have received over 500 applications from across the country. At first glance, the responses show that these young women are motivated, eager to learn and committed. One of the questions we ask applicants is: ‘how would you describe yourself in 3 words?’ The answers are quite inspiring and moving, let alone the vision they have for themselves for the near future as entrepreneurs and leaders in their respective fields of interest.
Based on the programme description, this sounds very hands-on and experiential. Can you break down the programme a little better?
The programme was curated and co-designed by Lahunna Oman and OBO, each of whom shared their expertise to build a programme that best met the needs of this age group. OBO is no stranger to the rugged mountains and tenacious training environment offered by the outdoors — we wanted to complement it with something that would take these young women to the next level intellectually, and stretch them outside of the physical challenges of the course.
As Lahunna, we came in with our insights as well as an international strategic knowledge partner, Singapore’s National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA), which is the second-largest National Award Authority in the world. Along with a local mentor and guide, this expert on tri-sector strategy innovation and entrepreneurship will coach all the girls in Phase 1, 4 days in Jabal Al Akhdhar. Phase 2 will entail coaching these young women virtually over 6 months. The outcome of the sessions will be the development of white papers that will address some of the youth’s most pressing challenges. A second group of young women will be mentored by leaders from the public, private and civil sectors, gaining first-hand exposure to the realities on the ground nationally from these policy setters and executors.
The world is becoming a global village where the best talents are often hired wherever in the world. Is it the hope of this programme to prepare Omani [or Oman-based] women for this eventuality?
Nobody is confined within the country be it female or male. Many Omani women have worked overseas, still work overseas and others freelance across the region and beyond. Technology advancements, remote working and Covid-19 have made this even easier. There are ample platforms like freelancer and Fiverr that help many talented individuals to find work easily. Geography is no longer a limitation. As for the programme, it is to promote the inclusion of diverse thoughts and talents amongst our youth, giving them access to opportunities and resources, developing their interpersonal skills, and unleashing their potential so they can ultimately benefit themselves, their community and Oman at large.
For emphasis, what does one gain or lose when joining or not joining this programme?
There is nothing to lose, but plenty to gain. The young women will experience this unique learning journey which will increase their self-awareness, allow them to develop new competencies, and introduce them to genuine project-based learning. Sidrah offers participants an opportunity to explore new ideas and then supports them in actualising them, resulting in real community change. Throughout their journey they will be closely coached and mentored, expanding their network with sessions with ministers, under-secretaries, CEOs and entrepreneurs. All Sidrah women will gain relevant insights about themselves and their country; they will be poised to assume the role of change agents in their communities. We hope Sidrah will inspire them to positively contribute to Oman’s renewed renaissance with a sense of pride, confidence and patriotism.
Young women from across Oman are invited to register today and become a part of advancing Oman’s Vision 2040. For more details please visit https://forms.gle/is1obQm1Vu1oNNgTA.
To learn more about developments of this programme, follow the following accounts:
Shatha Al Maskiry