HH Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum awards children for their creativity and commitment to a more sustainable future

The first winners of the Middle East edition of the Voices of Future Generations, the inspiring global writing competition for children, were announced today at a digital award ceremony streamed from the Zabeel Ladies Club, Dubai. The unique writing initiative, held under the patronage of UNESCO, was created to promote sustainability awareness and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The ceremony also marked the launch of the second edition of the competition in the Gulf region.

The regional competition is organised by the Emirates Literature Foundation on behalf of HH Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Goodwill Ambassador for the initiative for the Gulf Region, who said that the entries had been impressive: “This competition asks children to think more deeply about all the Sustainable Development Goals and how we treat our planet and each other. The eloquent and imaginative stories submitted have made it very clear to me that young people have both the vision and the will to change our world for the better.

“From discrimination and tolerance and the urgent need to preserve water in the face of climate change, to plastic pollution, Green Warriors and camels, the range and ingenuity has been exceptional. I am so proud of our talented children and the vision that they have created for the future.”

The competition, for children aged 8 to12, encourages children to write adventure stories about characters overcoming challenges and creating a more tolerant, sustainable world. The best entries are published in a book and sent to schools across the globe. More than 600 entries were received in this first year.

Speaking from Canada, Dr Alexandra Harrington, Legal Counsel and member of the International Commission for Voices of Future Generations, said: “We are thrilled to announce the winners of the first Voices of Future Generations Arabia Child Author Competition. The International Commission deeply appreciated the range of perspectives and lessons that were presented in the shortlisted stories, written in both Arabic and English. It is an honour to partner with the Emirates Literature Foundation,  with the tremendous support of the Goodwill Ambassador, HH Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for the publication of these new stories in the Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative book series. These stories will help to share important messages from the region with children around the world, as well as foster a global conversation about Children’s Rights and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”WINNERS OF FIRST VOICES OF FUTURE GENERATIONS

The winners are:

Winners in the Arabic category:

  1. Saud and Chess, by Saud Ahmad Salem Alkabi, age 8, Omair bin Abi Waqas Cycle 1 Governmental school
  2. Be Aware, by Abdulkarim Ghazal, age 11, AlSholla Private School
  3. Let’s Help Shihab, by Ahmad Ismail Zandah, age 12, Al Kamal Private School

Winners in the English category:

  1. The Green Warrior, by Saira Thomas, age 12, from Our Own English High School
  2. Jamila’s Habibi, by Sashini Manikandan, age 12, from Delhi Private School
  3. Create the Chain, by Shahid Fayis, age 11, Delhi Private School

The award ceremony also marks the opening of the 2021 competition. Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation said: “We are so proud to be part of this initiative. Children are the future, and the planet is theirs to inherit. We must give them a say, and truly listen to their voices when they share their vision for a better future. I can’t think of a better way for this vision to spread and take hold around the world than through stories. We must never underestimate the power of a story.”

The competition is open to children aged 8-12, writing for children aged 6 and above. All entries must be between 600-1,500 words long, in Arabic or English. The stories should feature one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the writer’s hopes, dreams or aspirations for a sustainable future. Entries are open to all children resident in the UAE and in full-time education, including those in home schooling. The competition will close in the first half of 2021.

The Voices of Future Generations Initiative was launched on the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child by a consortium of partners including World Future Council, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights in the Government of Hungary, and the Trust for Sustainable Living, under the patronage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Synopses of winning entries:

Arabic category:

  1. Saud and Chess Game

This story features two themes that are very important to the future generations: the abandonment of racial discrimination and tolerance, SDG 10 “Reduce Inequalities”. It also addresses the issue of bullying that some children face in their daily life. A story that demonstrates an important point of view through thought-provoking dialogues.

  1. Be Aware

The story dealt with more than one issue concerned with sustainability – starting from the need not to waste water, SDG 6 “clean water and sanitation”, to the need to keep the oceans and beaches clean, SDG 14 “Life Below Water”, and to stop using plastic, SDG 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production”. As the consequences of the main character’s actions were all evident to him in his dream on the seashore when he fell asleep, when he woke up he realised the need to improve his behaviour, and show greater awareness and responsibility toward the environment.

  1. Let’s Help Shihab

This story reflects a prevalent issue in our society which is the overeating and unhealthy weight gain. The way Ahmed helped his cousin Shihab was spontaneous, out of a kind and loving heart, and free of prejudices. Adding animals and small reptiles to the story was a smart and important gesture to highlight the importance of preserving nature with all that it contains. The story is written in a strong style and the idea is creative.

The story Addresses SDG#3 Good Health and Well Being and SDG# 15 Life on Land.

Winners in the English category:

  1. The Green Warrior:

Using striking imagery, The Green Warrior authentically captures the UAE’s desert surroundings. The story plot encourages young readers to begin to think critically about nature conservation and believe in their abilities to make a difference. The author is clearly ready to face all challenges and battle it out for a more sustainable and greener planet.

  1. Jamila’s Habibi:

Jamila’s Habibi is a sensitive and thought-provoking story that describes the bond of friendship that develops between the main character and a baby camel. Their journey awakens young readers to the importance of understanding recycling and the elimination of plastic from the environment. The author’s persuasive voice successfully evokes a sense of empathy and resolve to make our environment safe for all creation.

  1. Create the Chain

This story is about kindness and how it grows when we share it. It is a human superpower we can all harness. The author shows that compassion can win the day.

About the Emirates Literature Foundation:

The Emirates Literature Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation which supports and nurtures a love of literature in the United Arab Emirates and the region, through a programme of varied cultural initiatives.

Established in 2013 by Royal Decree issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Foundation aims to foster a love for literature, with a focus on the Arabic language.

In line with the National Reading Policy of the UAE, the Foundation has implemented several long-term projects including the School Librarian of the Year Award and the annual Arabic Language Week, as well as conducting year-round student education programmes, book clubs and creative writing courses. The Foundation’s previous initiatives included the 2016 Dubai Translation Conference and the 2017 Dubai International Publishing Conference, which hosted a number of international participants.

The Foundation is also the governing body of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the UAE’s premier literary festival.

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