Lama Younis

Lama Younis, who is one of the first female criminologists and forensic psychologists qualified in the GCC, is the founder of Hissah Enrichment Center as well as the Lama Campaign, a non-profit that works to create awareness about children’s rights and safety in the Middle East.

As a Saudi Arabia-trained psychologist, Younis has sought to understand her culture, society and bring awareness and support where they are most needed. In 2005 Lama Younis was among the first women to graduate with a degree in psychology from Saudi Arabia’s Effat University, the first private women university in the kingdom to offer this degree to undergraduates.

Now Lama Younis has an established wellness center in Dubai, where her work focuses on raising awareness about physical safety, emotional well-being and dispelling myths around seeking help.

What motivated you to establish Hissah Enrichment Center?

Lama Younis: I was always wondering why there is a taboo in the Middle East around the topic of well-being. Why do individuals worry about what others might think about them or how they might perceive them? That’s when I started studying my society in order to understand how can one help them and offer the right services for my clients.

I believe individuals from the older generation are very much stronger than today’s generation, they tolerate things more. My mother, and women from her generation, are not very open to seeking help when it comes to well-being, unlike my generation, where some women will read about it and others might actually seek help.

Today individuals are much open and you see a lot more psychology graduates because a lot of the universities in the Middle East have made it available for women and men.

Why did you choose psychology?

LY: I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field. So I applied to medical school and got the approval from my family in Saudi Arabia and the university to go the girls’ college here in the U.A.E. yet then I shifted to psychology because I wanted to understand myself better. When you know yourself, you’re able to help others. My aim was always to find peace within. When you’re happy, you naturally make others happy around you.

Can you tell me more about the Lama Campaign?

LY:The Lama Campaign is a not-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the protection and well-being of children and youth through education and awareness. The organization is fully licensed in the U.K. with the goal of educating children and adults on child abuse in all its forms through prevention programs, public awareness, training and advocacy worldwide. The organization aspires to forge, guide and support a commitment by families, communities and nations to prevent child abuse so as to ensure that every child grows up in a secure and healthy environment.

 What about cases of domestic violence or marital rape – it must be difficult to operate in an environment with few legal protections?

LY: There is always difficulty in finding evidence in domestic cases in our region. In cases when women are raped by their husbands, it’s very difficult to prove. Marital rape is not recognized, no. People get away with it. I face difficulties in cases of rape and abuse because I need a guardian’s permission to take action (in Saudi Arabia), and we have has cases in the past where the guardians are the actual offenders. Not even a policeman can come in between family at times in Saudi Arabia. I also have difficulties finding proper evidence, because some family members cover up others’ mistakes, not wanting for society to look down at them for their wrongful behavior. Yet I still believe the (guardianship system) is the biggest obstacle I face.

Many do not distinguish between punishment, discipline and abuse. I believe many take discipline to another level that is clearly abusive behavior. I had a case once where a mother would actually rub fresh chili on her child’s body and make him stand under the son for any prayer he would miss, or any low grades at school, this is an issue with honor and shame. We are clearly a collectivist culture, where an individual’s behavior will represent the whole family.

Another challenge we face is the definition of emotional abuse, many are not very aware of it as this awful act is carried out in some kind of discipline form ‘its viewed as a lesson or some kind of push for children to correct the unwanted behavior, they actually do not realize the scars that are left behind for life’.

What other obstacles do you face when practicing in Saudi Arabia?

LY: When I just graduated, I was the first woman to graduate with a forensic psychology degree in the Gulf Cooperation Council. But in Saudi Arabia, they refused to issue credentials to me to practice and work in the government, I was only allowed to do so in private sector.

How does it impact your work now?

LY: It doesn’t affect me. The way I practice is that I focus on the lack of knowledge and information. I focus on behavioral training and consultation. After three years of our center, we proved this hypothesis about the need for education and awareness. The clients come to me seeking answers rather then declaring they need help right away. We are the first door they open.

Many avoid the truth behind their issues, believing living in silence is much better, when they actually lack a peace of mind. I only pray for legal protections to be implemented, for awareness and education to be a part of the government movement to see long-term change.

What is the best biggest obstacle you’re facing right now?

LY: In the beginning I was frustrated, but after four years I found my way through. My business goals shifted. My focus shifted from adults to children, students, and younger generation after two years of opening the business. Younger generation is more open to knowledge. It’s nice to see them stand up for what they believe in. They are willing to implement positive change in their lives and society.

So there is a shift happening. What do you think needs to happen next, from the legal perspective and wider society to confront these issues?

LY: Education and awareness are my main goals. I have helped in many cases with children’s rights and other cases due to the lack of knowledge and clarity in the system. If we can have things clarified and information out in the public, then I believe many victims will come out to speak. The lack of knowledge keeps many in the dark and in silence. That is why I am on a mission to empower, to guide and to educate because that is the best way to move forward.

Our Aims at The Lama Campaign is to educate people across a range of sectors to increase knowledge, child protection training programs for professionals working with children and community education through seminars and so much more.

Originally Published on Ella

Wafaa Abbar: The queen of luxury retail therapy

    After the success of the annual Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience in the fashion capital of the Middle East — Dubai — the unique and exciting event has traveled all the way to Jeddah, the fashion capital of Saudi Arabia. 
     Rubaiyat, Saudi Arabia’s go-to luxury destination, and Vogue Italia, the most influential Italian fashion magazine, have come together to provide an international platform for Saudi female fashion designers.
      Saudi designers were required to submit their portfolios on Vogue Italia’s website, after which it was reviewed and selected by a team of Vogue Italia, who chose the works of ten designers. The winner will get full sponsorship to present her collection in Milan.
     All the finalists will exhibit their work at the Rubaiyat department store in Jeddah and will have the opportunity to showcase and sell their collections at the Stars Avenue Mall.
     “It is tremendously rewarding to see Saudi women being given such an opportunity on the world stage. We, together with Vogue Italia, are delighted to help highlight some of the Arab world’s most talented and emerging designers,” said Wafaa Abbar, president of the Rubaiyat Group.
Franca Sozzani, Editor in Chief of Vogue Italia, commented: “This initiative builds on Vogue Italia’s deep commitment to promote new fashion talents, knowing how important it is to offer them relevant and concrete international platforms to present and advance their creativity.”
     In partnership with the National Home Health Care Foundation, the event will feature a unique opportunity to scout the best female talents, embracing their ambitions and promoting their work on an international platform whilst adding to this initiative a humanitarian dimension by supporting the National Home Health Care — an opportunity that combines efforts and talents for a good cause. 
     The funds raised, thanks to the organization of a women’s charity gala dinner, will be donated to the World Food Programme, which will encourage and support the empowerment of women living in underdeveloped areas of the world.
     Arab News met with Wafaa Abbar, president of the Rubaiyat Group, one of the first Saudi women to start a retail business in the Kingdom, to talk about her career, achievements and the collaboration with Vogue Italia.

1. For those who don’t know you, who is Wafaa Abbar? 

I am President of Rubaiyat Company and a main shareholder in the company, which I helped to co-found in Jeddah in 1980. 

2. Tell us about yourself, what got you interested in the retail business and how did your career path lead you to be the president of a leading luxury retail fashion store? 

I started my career in retail as manager of client accounts at the Abbar Company where I was responsible for purchasing. My interest in fashion wear led me to start with Rubaiyat where I worked as children’s and ladies manager. My responsibilities increased as the company grew bigger and eventually I became President of Rubaiyat. 

3- Tell us about the journey behind establishing Rubaiyat. 

It has been a long and very fulfilling journey during which I and my colleagues have worked steadily to consolidate the acquisition of the exclusive distribution rights in Saudi Arabia for some of the most prestigious brands including Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Kenzo, Lanvin, Ermenegildo Zegna and many others. Over the years we have continuously reinvested in expanding with outlets in prominent locations and today Rubaiyat is a kingdom-wide chain with branches in Jeddah, Riyadh, Alkhobar and Dhahran. 

4. How is a day in the life of the president of a leading luxury retail company? 

Let us describe it as challenging but always bringing something new to the table. We are in constant movement, just like fashion and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. time speeds by, between meetings and strategic decisions, reports and mainly a continuous eye on fashion and brands, the day ends with the certitude that 24 hours are never enough in the day. 

5. In 2014, Rubaiyat opened the first luxury fashion department store in Jeddah. Tell us more about the concept.

With the Rubaiyat Department Store, we are redefining luxury shopping experience in Jeddah not only by offering the widest range of leading brands, but also by offering an exclusive service provided by fashion advisers that have been trained to cater to our clients’ needs and wishes. 

6. How has the 30-year journey with Rubaiyat been? 

For more than 30 years, Rubaiyat has been pioneering the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia. 

7. How did you manage to keep your standards high and keep up with the fast changing market, given that new competitors have entered the Saudi luxury market? 

We have attained our leading position by focusing on the highest levels of quality and customer service, while innovation keeps us apace with the fast changing market. 

8. What is your vision of what Rubaiyat should look like in the future and how do you plan to get there? Can you paint that big picture for us? 

Rubaiyat has always been a versatile entity that sets the trends in fashion, creating unique models and concepts to satisfy its clientele. Our evolution for the last 36 years has always been the wise consequence of calculated decisions and well placed investments to build on the heritage whilst looking at the future with sharp eyes. With the new retail panorama changes and fashion evolution, Rubaiyat is leading the way by introducing new brands and creating unique concepts whilst always having in mind, the end consumer and his needs from a luxury company. These are principles we have always believed in and worked toward. Going the extra mile when it comes to any service or product is key for us to cater to our clients’ expectations. We build the future with faith and determination, focusing on enriching our client’s experience and pursuing our fashion journey alongside him. 

9. What do you feel are some of the best aspects of the retail industry today, and what not-so-great features you would like to see changed? 

At the high-end of the retail industry, where Rubaiyat is positioned, the best aspect is the very high level creativity, which keeps on delivering fresh new ideas while maintaining classical traditions and quality. What I would like to see changed is greater prevention of counterfeiting of the top brand names. 

10. It was recently announced that Rubaiyat is teaming up with Vogue Talents to spot and promote the best women designers in Saudi Arabia. Tell us more about this collaboration.

In partnership with the National Home Health Care Foundation, Rubaiyat is hosting the Vogue Italia Experience, which will take place in Jeddah on April 20-21 and in Riyadh on April 22-23. The event is dedicated to a global celebration of Arab women, their heritage and culture. It will offer extraordinary experiences to entertain, involve, promote and engage local women. 

11. What inspired this collaboration? And what is Rubaiyat’s vision toward it? Will this be an annual collaboration? 

Rubaiyat represents many of the most famous Italian fashion brands so it is natural that we team up with Vogue Italia to bring this event to Saudi Arabia. Our vision is to identify young Saudi designers, nurture their talents, and give them an opportunity to appear on the international stage. We would like to see it become an annual event and will evaluate the results to see if this is feasible. 

12. Why has Rubaiyat partnered with the National Home Health Care Foundation and how will it benefit the foundation? 

The National Home Health Care Foundation (NHHCF) is one of the finest and most worthy charitable organizations in the Kingdom. As an NGO it cannot receive donations from entities outside Saudi Arabia and is dependent on funds raised within the Kingdom, accordingly, all revenues generated by Rubaiyat from the event will be donated to the NHHCF. 

13. At the end of the day, what image and thoughts would you wish to come to consumers’ minds at the mention of the name Rubaiyat? 

Rubaiyat always aims to be known as the leading retailer of high fashion and luxury goods in the kingdom, through its commitment to innovation and the highest levels of quality, world-class presentation, and thoughtful and attentive customer service. 

Originally published on Arab News

How HRH Princess Banderi Pushed for Anti-Domestic Violence Advertisement

When Ogilvy approached the King Khalid Foundation, a charity that focuses on issues of advocacy and developing the country's non-profit sector, they weren't sure what type of reaction to expect.

"I think that there was always a real concern that, given the subject matter, it would never get through," says Abbott.

A major push came from Saudi princess HRH Banderi A.R. Al Faisal, the foundation's director.

Though the campaign has captured the public's attention,both within Saudi and abroad, where an English version has made the rounds online, Al Faisal says she doesn't see the ad as shocking.

"My media and PR team were a bit nervous going into this, saying, 'Are you sure you want to do this?'" she admits. "I didn't understand why. I don't understand what is so controversial. Who will say, 'Yes, it's ok for women to be beaten up'?"

Saudi women are legally reliant on the permission of their male guardians to travel freely, driving is still a socially contentious issue and there are no laws that protect victims of domestic abuse. According to Al Faisal, however, change is in the air.

"For several years, domestic abuse was sort of the elephant in the room. There was nowhere for a woman to go if she was abused because a system wasn't set up to handle that," she admits. Though the issue is still not completely out in the open, she notes the last few years has seen a rise in shelters that cater to female victims of violence.

Published on by Daisy Carrington.