Aisha Saleh Al Maaded
Qatar has shown great interest in signing conventions concerned with preserving the environment. For example, in 2005, Qatar signed the Kyoto Protocol, a binding agreement that marks the goals and measures for combating climate change. Furthermore, Qatar has also hosted many conferences and talks on the environment and sustainability. Doha hosted the Eighteenth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2012. Although being a part of the international efforts to preserve the environment is important, the local environment can only thrive with the help of the local society, so the state is witnessing an increased number of environmental initiatives to spread awareness and support sustainability. One of those initiatives is Greener Future, and in this interview, we talked to Aisha Saleh Al Maaded, the founder of the initiative, and she told us her story as an environmental activist. So, who is Aisha Saleh Al Maaded?
I am a human being full of ambition and optimism. I believe that everything I want to achieve will happen one day, even if it takes a long time. I am also a very social and outgoing person, and I love to learn about new people, different cultures, and generally learn about new things. I also love volunteering. Furthermore, I am an environmental activist and the founder of Greener Future, an initiative that aims to educate society about the environmental issues we are facing, how to overcome them, or how to minimize the effects and how to stop their spread.
What motivated you to become an environmental activist?
I have always been interested in preserving the environment since my childhood. I even remember that, as a kid, I used to tell my mother that I wanted to go out to clean the street. As I grew up and gained more awareness, I realized that the message I want to carry in this life is preserving the environment through raising awareness. I wanted to take an active role in supporting sustainability and create a medium or a channel for people to be able to do the same. I wanted to achieve all that by bringing awareness to some of the behaviors that harm the environment, and by changing those to more sustainable ones or altering them to be less harmful to the environment.
I have spent four years studying abroad, and during those years, I have noticed a major difference in environmental awareness in Qatar. The country I was studying in put great effort into launching many campaigns to preserve the environment and educate the population. I felt that we lacked such initiatives in Qatar, and that motivated me to launch Greener Future in 2018; to date, the initiative is still running and exerting effort toward educating the public about the environment.
How did you launch the initiative, and what are its goals?
As I mentioned earlier, the initiative was launched in 2018; it came to life during my participation in the leadership program offered by Education Above All. During the program, we had to design social initiatives as groups, and it happened that the group I was part of was interested in designing an initiative for the environment, and since we cannot encompass all the environmental issues we are facing, we decided to focus on plastic pollution because of how widespread it is in Qatar. In the last few years, we have witnessed a huge increase in the number of coffee shops and, consequently, a rise in the use of plastic cups. Furthermore, most people were not aware of the negative environmental consequences of using plastic, so plastic was heavily used in everyday life with no regard for its harm to the environment.
This is how Greener Future came to life, and with time, it continued to grow even bigger, encompassing many environmental issues and topics. This includes encouraging reducing waste via reusing materials or recycling them, and we put great emphasis on providing the people with practical solutions that they can use in their daily life and in different places. For example, we encourage people to carry with them their shopping bags or their own utensils, like cups, when going to eat out. such behavioral modifications are simple. Still, the simpler the changes are, the more appealing it is to the audience to implement.
One thing that sets Greener Future apart from other environmental initiatives is our simple approach to delivering the information to people. In spreading awareness, we do not use jargon or complicated scientific information nor convey hard statistics. Instead, we prefer to use digestible language and provide examples of small changes our audience can adopt in their everyday lives. I believe such an approach will attract more people to us, encouraging them to take action. However, such an approach does not mean that we do not have any environmental specialists in our team, as we have experts in our team who know the effects of different materials on the environment. Even if we like a simple approach to what we do, we still make sure that scientific facts back it.
As an environmental activist, what was your experience working with different organizations in Qatar?
We have worked with many different organizations, such as the Qatar National Library, the Ministry of Municipality, and many more reputable organizations. We have also participated in different events and exhibitions; for example, we have participated with a small booth in an event at Katara. The goal of our booth was to showcase vendors that sell sustainable products, like straws made from bamboo and reusable bags. We wanted to introduce, to the Qatari public, the vendors that sell sustainable products.
Furthermore, we held some panel discussions where we had guests with various expertise. Some of them are from abroad, and such guests share with us the experiences they had in their country, and what we can do is learn from their experiences and adapt them to Qatar’s environment. We also participated in a youth conference held in Russia focusing on recycling and sustainability.
I feel that each experience working with different organizations is unique. Regardless of our collaborations with other entities, the advice we give and the research we discuss are the result of the team behind Greener Future.
What is your future vision for Greener Future?
We hope to collaborate with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Municipality to address some of the environmental issues we are facing in Qatar. We also aspire to have a proactive role in drafting laws regarding the environment and its issues, and in being an active partner for governmental entities in drafting those laws. In the future, we hope to offer environmental consultation for the general public.
Have you faced any challenges in your journey?
On a personal level, one of the challenges I face sometimes is the comments that minimize my effort in launching the initiative, mainly because of how young I am. So, they assume I do not have any experience. However, I take such reactions as challenges that push me forward to do even more. When it comes to Greener Future, some of the challenges that we face is the lack of support from ministries and environmental organizations, and so we rely fully on our individual efforts in running the initiative.
Can you tell us more about your achievements?
One of the things that I view as an achievement, both at a personal level and as an achievement for the initiative, is that we were able to reach and connect with different groups in our society, especially kids and students. When we carry any workshops in schools, and I see how the students react and interact with the initiative and with the idea of taking care of the environment, I feel overjoyed and hopeful that the next generation will try to protect the environment even better than us. I feel proud that the initiative will have a role in that.
What is your advice for women in Qatar?
It is essential for us to come together and support each other. We need to find strength within ourselves and in our solidarity. Also, I would advise them to contribute to protecting and preserving the environment in any way possible, even in a small way.
- Interview written by Fatema Ahmad.
- Interview was edited to improve readability and flow.