During the closing ceremony of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, which was held at the Dead Sea from 15 to 17 May, 2009, His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan honored four winners out of 10 outstanding Arab youth finalists for leading pioneering efforts in their communities to improve people’s lives.  

The winners of  the King Abdullah II Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement were Rabee Zureikat, 29, whose project in Jordan aims to promote greater equality through volunteerism, cultural exchanges and micro-loans; Lana Hijazi, 27, from Palestine, who launched a mobile-based service matching job seekers and employers; Abdelkareem Bedri, a 22-year-old from Sudan who works with the hearing impaired to increase learning and employment opportunities among this vulnerable group; and Raghda El Ebrashy, 26, from Egypt, also a YouthActionNet ® Global Fellow, who addresses the economic needs of youth and women in Old Cairo by offering them vocational training and job placement support.  

During the ceremony, the remaining six finalists were surprised to hear that His Majesty King Abdullah II decided to present the same grant award to each one of them in recognition of their innovative projects. The awards program was launched by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD) in partnership with the International Youth Foundation (IYF) to support young social entrepreneurs in the Arab World.  

“We are celebrating the incredible potential and innovative spirit that young people throughout our region possess, while also recognizing the important and significant role that youth play throughout the Arab world, and beyond, in positively contributing to sustainable development and the betterment of society as a whole,” said Mr. Tarik Awad, Director-General of KAFD. The winners receive US$50,000 each to expand the scope and impact of their work, including support for training and capacity building opportunities.  

KAFD was supported throughout the award process by YouthActionNet®, which is IYF's youth leadership initiative that has provided 140 young leaders from 55 countries with capacity building and leadership training through its global fellowship program. “IYF is proud to partner with KAFD to celebrate the power of young people to help transform their communities across this important region of the world,” said William S. Reese, President and CEO of IYF.

“We congratulate this year’s winners and look forward to our ongoing work with KAFD to ensure many more outstanding Arab youth can benefit in the years to come.”     

To learn more about the finalists, please go to the awards website at www.KAAYIA.org  

For more information on IYF’s YouthActionNet program, visir www.youthactionnet.org