October 10, 2017

WEORITU: Positive Social Change through Example

Portraits of women featured in WEORITU's #WeCanDoIt documentary on a wall in Al Shaheed Park, Kuwait City. (WEORITU)

Where to? This is the question Taibah al-Qatami, a Kuwaiti millennial, was pondering as she thought of initiating WEORITU. An independent Gulf youth initiative, WEORITU attempts to spread positivity through showcasing and producing different mediums of art that inspire and bring the Gulf community closer together. Among WEORITU’s projects is #WeCanDoIt, which is a series of short interview clips that were compiled into a documentary highlighting influential Gulf women of various ages, backgrounds, and professions. These women offer advice to inspire and empower younger girls. In creating this documentary, which was released in September, the WEORITU team conducted 130 interviews, working with representatives from all six Gulf Cooperation Council states to reach out to empowered women in their societies. AGSIW spoke with Taibah about WEORITU’s inception and the #WeCanDoIt project.

AGSIW: What compelled you to start WEORITU and how has the team grown?

Taibah: WEORITU is a made-up word that is pronounced “Where to?” I had a question about the future, “Where are we all headed?” The idea came about to create a platform to spread positive messages. It evolved from one project to the second project – #WeCanDoIt – which was just completed in August.

For #WeCanDoIt, specifically, we were able to grow and become a team of more than 20 people from across the GCC through word of mouth. What brought us together is that we all believed in the objective of the project. It was really amazing how a lot of us were strangers before the project came about and now have developed solid friendships because of it.

WEORITU shooting the series #WeCanDoIt. (WEORITU)

AGSIW: You co-directed the #HappyQ8 video, featuring Kuwaitis dancing in expression of happiness and positivity, which went viral and reached more than a half million views on YouTube. How did you come up with this idea?

Taibah: Project #HappyQ8 marked the initiation of WEORITU and the idea behind it was to spread positivity, promote self-expression, and celebrate freedom locally in Kuwait and globally through the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. We were lucky to have released our video 15 days prior to the International Day of Happiness, which we were asked to take part in and represent Kuwait along with all the videos released worldwide. To our surprise, Pharrell himself gave a shout-out [to our video] right before they played it on the official campaign website and the YouTube channel iamOTHER.

AGSIW: The #WeCanDoIt project sheds light on the inspiring journeys of accomplished women from the Gulf of various age groups and professional paths. Would you talk about why you chose to highlight women specifically?

Taibah: One of the women we interviewed said, “The woman is half the society and the mother of the other half.” We wanted to shed light on the reality of the matter, which is that women in the Middle East and GCC have been breaking barriers and achieving their dreams. In some way we are promoting this positive change by highlighting such women to raise awareness and inspire others.

AGSIW: Who is the intended audience for the #WeCanDoIt series?

Taibah: Our intended audience is young girls. The idea is that we portray a variety of women who represent different generations and work in diverse sectors in order to inspire a wide group of people. Through our various social media platforms, a person would be able to connect with these women and so it would fulfill another objective of the project, which is to bring the community closer.

The #WeCanDoIt team members during the documentary’s launch. (WEORITU)

AGSIW: After conducting more than 130 interviews with women from the Gulf, what’s your main takeaway?

Taibah: Each woman had her own unique journey and so each interview had a specific message. I would encourage people to watch each video on its own. Overall, though, the common thread was the positive perception of obstacles as challenges – which are part of the growth process. Also, one commonality was the general hopeful expectation of a brighter future for women both in the Gulf region and globally.

To watch the #WeCanDoIt video series visit WEORITU’s YouTube channel. To stay connected with WEORITU’s latest news and projects, visit the website.

Mai Alfarhan is a research associate at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.