Female volunteers: Lynchpin of Kurdistan Region’s TEDxNishtiman 2022

Rastak Group, a Kurdish musical band, along with MJ – a hip hop group – are planned to perform at the event. 
author_image Kurdistan 24
Female TEDxNishtiman volunteers working on the preparations for the fifth round of the event in Erbil. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)
Female TEDxNishtiman volunteers working on the preparations for the fifth round of the event in Erbil. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Young female volunteers are the main driving force behind one of the Kurdistan Region’s biggest ideas-spreading events, TEDxNishtiman, which is set to kick off on Saturday, Mar. 26. It is expected that more than a thousand people will attend.

At Erbil’s Saad Abdullah Conference Hall, young adults are extremely busy putting the final touches on the event, which they have been dedicating a great amount of their time to -- aside from their studies. 

Fatigue from months-long effort put in the organization of the youth-driven event is evident on the faces of the female volunteers, but speaking to Kurdistan 24 on Thursday, they say “passion” is what drives them. 

Divided into four teams, 78 percent of the TEDxNishtiman’s 150 volunteers are women while only 22 percent are men, Sewad Omer, the head of TEDxNishtiman’s management, told Kurdistan 24. 

A number of the TEDxNishtiman volunteers working on the preparations for the fifth round of the event in Erbil. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)
A number of the TEDxNishtiman volunteers working on the preparations for the fifth round of the event in Erbil. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)

Coming from different parts of Iraq, three out of the four event’s teams are led by female volunteers, marking the highest rate of female participation in the history of the Kurdish TEDx events, she said. 

With nearly 50 people working under her supervision for the past six months, Ms. Omer has been leading the management affairs, in addition to pouring over the English novelists Charlotte and Emily Brontë as a student of English Language at Salahaddin University in Erbil. 

As the event is sponsored by local companies, the conference is also a venue for young people to build networks and seize job opportunities -- a significant number of the attendees are new graduates with high potential, she said. 

Rawand Hussein (center), the chief organizer of TEDxNishtiman, giving a presentation for the event's volunteers. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)
Rawand Hussein (center), the chief organizer of TEDxNishtiman, giving a presentation for the event's volunteers. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)

“TEDxNishtiman is building a bridge between the sponsors, attendees, and the youth [looking for a job opportunity],” the 21-year-old management chief added, saying more than 3,000 people showed interest to attend, but due to limited spaces, they could not accomodate all.

Themed “Rise Up”, the fifth round of TEDxNishtiman will showcase various young speakers whose short talks will highlight the most pressing issues and topics in Kurdish society, such as technology, youth empowerment, climate change, animal welfare, and agriculture. 

Young volunteers discussing the preparations for the fifth round of TEDxNishtiman in Erbil. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)
Young volunteers discussing the preparations for the fifth round of TEDxNishtiman in Erbil. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)

There are eleven speakers at the conference, six of whom are women, but the convention also offers other features, like entertainment programs and a business exhibition where Kurdish entrepreneurs display and sell locally-made products. 

Rastak Group, a Kurdish musical band, along with MJ – a hip hop group – are planned to perform at the event. 

Despite COVID-19 cases dramatically decreasing according to recent public health authority tallies, the organizers of the event have committed to strict restrictions to mitigate the spread of the highly contagious virus. 

Masking and social distancing will be strictly observed at the conference, she said, adding that proof of vaccination will be checked at the gates. 

The two main halls of the conference building, named after Saad Abdulla, one of the victims of a bloody terrorist attack in 2004, are fully booked, Rawand Hussein, the chief organizer, told Kurdistan 24.

More than a thousand people are scheduled to attend the one-day event, which starts at 10:00 AM and continues until 4:00 PM. Attendees will include government officials, young entrepreneurs, artists, and members of the diplomatic community. 

The young volunteers posing for a group photo at Sami Abdul Rahman Park in Erbil. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)
The young volunteers posing for a group photo at Sami Abdul Rahman Park in Erbil. (Photo: TEDxNishtiman)

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani attended last year’s event. In his speech, he spoke about the ambitions and expectations of the younger Kurdish generations, reiterating that his government would work towards realizing them. 

Facing the tough challenges organizing such an event imposes, the young volunteers have worked mostly autonomously with little guidance from the adult organizers.

“There is trust in the process,” Derin Baqi, a 20-year-old female volunteer, told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday.

Having been in charge of the speakers’ affairs and preparations, Ms. Baqi has worked tirelessly the past six months, even on university days, when she had to respond to constant emails and WhatsApp messages, asking for her guidance on the procedure. 

To select the best speakers out of a significant number of interested applicants, she had been reviewing the proposed talks with her colleagues even during her final exams.

TEDxNishtiman is about “the effect that you want to leave on young people,” she told Kurdistan 24. 

She initially started as a contributor to the event’s website, before rising to lead a seventeen-member team. This indicates the enterprise’s welcoming environment for young people to realize their potential, she said. 

Aland Saifaddin, 27, is one of the speakers whose talk is centered on pushing for digital banking in the region’s heavily cash-based economy. 

At his rehearsal presentation, the digital banker explained the benefits of online banking for consumers in the region. He also attempted to educate people on the new digital platform of his employer, the First Iraqi Bank (FIB). 

Aland Saifaddin speaking during a rehearsal ahead of his talks at TEDxNishtiman on digital banking. (Photo: Kurdistan24)
Aland Saifaddin speaking during a rehearsal ahead of his talks at TEDxNishtiman on digital banking. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

The person in charge of securing the necessary financial donors for the event is Sham Lezan, TEDxNishtiman’s head of marketing and digital media. 

“Thinking globally and act[ing] locally,” has been the organizers’ approach, she told Kurdistan 24.

Addressing the pessimism and emigration of Kurdish youth, Ms. Lezan believes there is “still hope for a brighter Kurdistan,” adding such events aim to encourage the young people to express themselves freely and realize their potential. 

The Kurdistan 24 is the media partner of TEDxNishtiman.