Young authors with dignitaries at the event.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (EAFL, Feb. 1- 6) was the setting for a book launch - with a difference - as it welcomed more than 20 young child authors who had won their place in the third Young Voices of Arabia anthology. In the presence of the Voices of Future Generations (VoFG) Goodwill Ambassador for the Middle East Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 2022 winners of the competition saw for the first time their stories illustrated by local artists and celebrated at the largest celebration of literature in the Middle East region. Sheikha Hissa said: “Each year, the children who enter this competition inspire me and fill me with hope for the future. I ask you to hear their voices. Read their stories. These children are going to achieve great things; and it has already started. By connecting with Voices of Future Generations, they have become a part of a movement, spreading their own message of sustainability. Let their passion, creativity and vision guide you, and inspire you to join the movement.”
Sharing her love of literature with children from around the region, Sheikha Hissa supports the development of this children’s book series authored by children, for children. The stories are illustrated and published, and the books disseminated globally to schools and libraries for all children to benefit from; they will be able to read stories told from a child’s point of view. Every story highlights children’s rights and sustainability in creative and entertaining ways.
Sheikha Hissa, who is a passionate horsewoman and writer, is also the author of Tajaarub: From a Horsewoman’s Journey, which explores the powerful connection between humans and horses. “The reason I wrote my book,” says Sheikha Hissa, “was because I like stories; I love a good story, and I enjoy sharing them. Although there is nothing wrong with make-believe ones, mine were real experiences that I loved to share with others.
“The second reason was because I wanted to record my experiences. Horses have always been an essential part of my life, and growing up around them has shaped the way I am today, which inspired me to write and share those valuable experiences with other people. People around me would always recall the little moments that they remember with my horses and it made me realise how sad it would be to lose those memories. So I decided to write them down.”
Emirati slam poet Dr Afra Atiq (left), Harry Baker and Isobel Abulhoul.
The EAFL event was hosted by previous competition winners, Ethan Dsouza and Hazza Ali Salem Mohamed Ali Yaleili. As part of the event, lyrical masters and keen supporters of the initiative, slam poets Dr Afra Atiq and Harry Baker, performed their 17 Sustainable Development Goals poem with the help of the child authors — and the audience.
The two first place winners of the competition, Nourah Ahmed Yousif Almushtaghil Alnaqbi and Inayah Fathima Faeez, also treated the audience to a short reading from their stories in Arabic and English.The anthology features winning stories from the VoFG competition in 2022. It has been professionally edited and translated, so that the stories can be read in Arabic and English.
They were inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and share the author’s vision for a better future. Capturing the spirit of the nation, the collection is aligned with the UAE’s commitment to the environment, as 2023 is named the Year of Sustainability, culminating in Cop28 being held in Dubai in November.
Isobel Abulhoul OBE, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation (ELF), said: “This is a very special collection, and I implore everyone to read it and be inspired. Here we have some of the most inventive and enjoyable adventure tales I have read in a long time. Each one makes a powerful case for one of the UN’s sustainable development goals, showing how passionate these young authors are about our planet and its preservation, as well as story-telling.There is nothing quite like a great story to win over hearts and minds, and that is exactly what this anthology does.”
Jennifer Malton, Director of VoFG and Sustainability, ELF, said that “it is heart-warming to see how the entire community came out to support these young authors and sustainability champions. It is clear that their passion for sustainability is contagious; we love to see how their enthusiasm spreads to their schools, their social clubs, family gatherings and everywhere they go. This initiative is proof that we can all make a difference.”
VoFG is a writing initiative launched under the patronage of UNESCO and supported by Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It was created to promote Sustainability and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child through a creative writing competition for young children. The competition was first launched in the Middle East in 2019, with support from ELF.
The 2023 competition is now open to all children aged between 8 and 12 residing in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait. Entries can be in either Arabic or English. They should be between 600 and 1,500 words long, and feature the writer’s hopes, dreams and aspirations for a sustainable future, including at least one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. More information can be found on the Voices of Future Generations website, https://vofg.vofgarabia.org/. The anthology is available to download from the website, https://vofg.vofgarabia.org/books.
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