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21st Century Leaders Foundation will honour three extraordinary women at their inaugural awards ceremony taking place at Grand Hyatt Doha.
Qataris Eman Ahmed Al Obaidli and Sara Mohammed Al-Shamlan, and Palestinian Helen Shehadeh will be the first recipients of the Unsung Hero Award at the Doha 21st Century Awards ceremony. The Doha 21st Century Leaders Awards was established this year to mark the humanitarian and environmental achievements of individuals who have made a serious commitment and a significant impact to their chosen cause.
Eman Ahmed Al Obaidli, a retired elementary school teacher has spent the last seven years engaging the people of Qatar in becoming more aware of children with physical disabilities. Eman has made it her mission to increase the sensitivity and understanding of the Qatari community towards people born with physical disabilities. Eman has also raised significant awareness within Qatar for Caudal Regression Syndrome, a rare spinal disorder that affects her son Ghanim. With her son as a constant source of inspiration and with a strong belief in his independence, Eman has founded Ghanim’s Wheelchair Foundation which has donated hundreds of wheelchairs to other special needs societies in the gulf region. She also started Ghanim’s Sport Club to allow both physically disabled and able bodied children to join in together in activities as varied as karate, skateboarding and basketball. In the future, Eman’s vision for Qatar’s community includes independent accessibility for wheelchairs and integrated sport clubs
The second unsung hero to be awarded this year is sixteen year old Sara Mohammed Al-Shamlan, a student from Qatar Academy, who harnessed her passion of photography to raise awareness of some of the poorer expatriate Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi children in Qatar. Initially started for a community service project for school, she documented a number of young children in the Abu Hamour area of Doha and went on to sell the prints in her father’s jewellery shop and at a jewellery exhibition. Sara very quickly raised a huge amount of money that was used to provide the children with a proper education and basic necessities such as shoes and toys. Daughter of well-known Qatari businessman Mohamed Marzooq Al Shamlan, Managing Director of Marzooq Al Shamlan & Sons (MSS), Sara considers her father a major catalyst for her way of thinking. Sara’s work is supported by the Qatar Charity.
The third recipient of the Unsung Hero award is Helen Shehadeh, a Palestinian woman who at the age of seventy-five is actively continuing her lifes work teaching blind students. At the age of two, Helen herself lost her eyesight overnight as a result of a diphtheria epidemic. In 1981, Helen founded the Al Shurooq School for the Blind which aimed to provide blind and visually impaired children with an appropriate education and equal opportunity, while rehabilitating and integrating them into the local community. During the Gaza conflict, many students were cut off from Al Shurooq, and Helen made the decision to re-locate the school to a small villa in Beit Jala in order to continue providing them with an education. At the time of the move, Helen adopted a severely disabled child that had been abandoned by her parents and brought her with her to the villa and continued to look after her until she sadly passed away. At the time of the move, Helen was already past retirement age, and it was due to her ongoing dedication and commitment that the school continued to flourish, and they have recently been able to move into a new purpose built facility thanks to her hard work.
Other award recipients on the night include film stars Josh Hartnett and Sir Ben Kingsley and film makers Danny Boyle and Christian Colson, who will be the first recipients of Doha 21st Century Leader Awards to be presented in a special gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt Doha on the same night.
The 21st Century Leaders Foundation are working in partnership with the Friends of the Environment Center and Qatar Charity, who are supporting one of the recipients of the Unsung Hero Award Sara Mohammed Al-Shamlan, to host the awards and a series of events that will help to raise awareness of humanitarian and environmental causes.
The 21st Century Leaders Foundation was started in 2003 by Charlotte di Vita MBE and leverages the influence of well-known figures of popular culture to promote and encourage positive change for humanitarian and environmental issues facing the world today.