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Work hard and play hard, student leaders in UAE and Qatar told

Dubai: Students of various high schools in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar were told on Saturday to take courage and to work hard but also learn to laugh hard in life at the Young Women’s Leadership Summit on Saturday.

“I encourage you all to be courageous, to step out of your comfort zone, to do the things that you think you cannot do because at the other side of fear there is power. But another thing is laughter. Take what you do seriously, but be prepared to laugh at yourself if you blunder and have a setback,” Julie Lewis, career trainer and speaker, told a crowd of schoolgirls at the student-led summit on Saturday.
The one-day summit was held at the GEMS Our Own English High School-Dubai, one of the largest girls’ schools in the Gulf. Predominantly Indian students of 16 girls’ schools from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar attended the summit to hone their leadership skills and prepare them for the challenges ahead of them.
Lewis said students nowadays tend to take themselves too seriously. And while it is important to act on their dreams, it is also helpful to relax and breathe for a minute to get a better perspective on life.
“I encourage you all when things get a little bit tough, to take a commercial break and have some comic relief and relax. She who laughs will last,” Lewis said. To be a good leader, Lewis said one should be resilient, able to bounce back even after failures and disappointments.
These disappointments may come from an inability to conform to social norms and expectations, which should not be the case, said Neena Nizar, educator and another speaker at the summit.
Nizar, who has a rare condition of the bones that restricts her mobility, said the students should not be pressured to go with the flow. Instead, they should chart their own path to success despite their imperfections.
“Break free. Stretch out. Reach out and explore yourself. Then you will find out that nothing in society can hold you back,” Nizar said.
A student-focused panel discussion followed the inspirational speeches to give students a platform to voice their opinions on issues women face today. The discussion followed the format of a mock United Nations conference, where students delivered their views on turning oppression into opportunity.
Many of the student participants highlighted Malala’s fight for the right to be educated as an example of turning problems into opportunities. Malala Yousafzai is a teenage Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for defying their orders that women should not be educated.
Just like Malala, the students said, every girl child must be taught to change her fate.