From where I stand: “Bureaucracy and traditions are holding back youth”

Waad Hayef Alhlaili wants to create the first women’s shelter in Kuwait so that she and others can be safe from violence


Waad Hayef Alhlaili. Photo: UN Women/Emad Karim
Waad Hayef Alhlaili. Photo: UN Women/Emad Karim


There are a lot of talented young people in Kuwait, full of ideas and innovations. But no one is incubating all this talent. I started an online platform, “Hear Me”, to listen to young innovators and connect them to the right people and resources.

I started the platform with 10 volunteers. Now we are down to three. My partners were frustrated because the officials still dismiss us, because we are young. Bureaucracy and traditions are holding back youth in Kuwait.

The idea I am working on now is to build the first women’s shelter for domestic violence survivors. I once received a call from a young woman in her twenties. She wanted to report her sixty-year-old husband for sexual abuse. She had no place to go; her parents had practically sold her to this man. If she went to the police, they would have most likely returned her to the husband, as it is largely accepted that men can “discipline” women.

I want to create a space where we can be safe from violence and know our rights. The shelter will connect women to jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. They will have access to health services and lawyers.

I have three donors already, and the Ministry of Finance has agreed to provide a space. But I need more partnerships and staff.

How old am I? Twenty-two.”

SDG 5: Gender equality

Waad Hayef Alhlaili is a 22-year-old microbiology student at Kuwait University and passionate about stopping gender-based violence and facilitating economic empowerment for Kuwaiti youth. She was in New York recently at UN Headquarters to present at the 2017 ECOSOC Youth Forum as part of the the Youth Leadership Programme) developed and implemented by UNDP with the support ofUN Women in the Arab region.. Ms. Alhlaili’s work contributes towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 target on ending violence against women, as well as SDG 8, which focuses on employment and decent work for all, including youth.

Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.