For giving a new generation of leaders a voice in government—and the future
Shamma Al Mazrui made history when she was appointed Minister of State for Youth Affairs for the United Arab Emirates—the youngest cabinet minister in the world at age 22. It's especially appropriate given her location: Of the nearly 10 million people who call the Emirates home, nearly half are under the age of 35.
Al Mazrui cut her change-making teeth at the prime minister's office and at the UAE Mission to the United Nations, then was appointed in 2016 to build a long-term strategy to elevate the voice of young Emiratis to decision-makers across the government and society. Fast-forward five years, and she has done just that.
"The UAE's model of investing in youth is a living case study in the path to real 21st century prosperity," Al Mazrui said in a World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation address. "We make youth the innovators and co-creators of our tomorrow because we understand our prosperity depends on them."
Al Mazrui wasted no time establishing Youth Councils across the seven emirates, creating a framework for Emirati youth to meet with public entities on issues ranging from skills and talent development to emerging tech trends. For her Youth Circles initiative, leaders present an issue and young people from different fields and age groups share thoughts, offer solutions and propose policy ideas.
One of just eight women in the UAE's 29-member cabinet, Al Mazrui and her team have facilitated 106 Youth Councils, hundreds of Youth Circles, and launched dozens of youth-led initiatives. Earlier this year, Al Mazrui also helped the UAE cabinet launch what's billed as the world's first youth index to provide governments and the private sector with "evidence-based data" to improve how they support and empower youth age 15 to 35.
Al Mazrui's efforts seem to be paying off: Nearly three-quarters of young Arabs say their voice matters to their country's leadership, according to the 2021 ASDA'A BCW Arab Youth Survey—and that statistic is trending up.
"If you have a hope map, youth are the GPS," Al Mazrui said. "If they despair, we regress. If they hope, we move forward. If they prosper, all of us—humanity—will profit."