Saudi national Reem Bakhit is a multi-talented woman. She worked on the UCMAS mental maths programme, is the co-co-founder of Tarweesheh, owner of an educational consulting centre and a writer. Bakhit, who studied Sociology at King Abdul Aziz University and has a master’s degree in Management Science, also finds time for sports and environmental activiites. Sahar Fidah met up with this exceptional person to find out more about her inspirations.
So, who is Reem Bakhit?
My father’s family is from Yanb’u, while my mother's family is from Bosnia. I was touched by this cultural diversity, and I grew up in the Hijaz, where families from different backgrounds mix, creating intellectual enrichment. I was influenced by the spirituality of Al-Medina, where my grandparents and aunts lived, and at the same time I was affected by the dynamics of Jeddah. I fell in love with its sea and land, and it is where my heart is. I researched on the marine environment protecting the Red Sea, and I founded the consulting educational institution called Future Experts in 2001.
Who influenced you in your life and who is your role model?
My dear parents, they are a treasure of principles and values and I still seek out their advise. My grandfather Ahmad Bushnaq and his care for educating also touched me. I have learnt a lot through my children and through their experiences I have built bridges of communication between generations. A lot of people left their mark on my life.
You were born in Beirut and lived between Beirut, Jeddah, Al Khobar, and the US. How did you take advantage of this? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
I generally love travelling, my father also loves to travel and explore. I had to settle in the United States for a period of eight years, in several states, which exposed me to different enriching experiences. But this not just in the west. In Malaysia, I worked on the UCMAS mental maths programme and I am still one of its proctors, in addition to other experiences. Travelling is tiring, through it I learnt to love life but not to become attached to it at the same time.
Tell us about your diverse activitites.
I have worked in the field of education since 1994. I believe in instilling values from childhood, with opening horizons and removing the intellectual and social restrictions that suppress common sense. My interest in education opened up several avenues for me, such as an interest in protecting the environment, especially the marine environment, and a combination of my hobbies such as swimming , professional diving and spreading environmental awareness and education. Many benefits can be achieved through some sports programmes, they can enrich family ties, in an interactive constructive atmosphere. Sport enriches life skills in all respects and boosts self-confidence.
How do you share your experiences with others?
Diving brought my family together and opened doors for communication. I established the Mirmets team, or friends of the sea, with some amateur, volunteers. Our goal is the protection of sea environment and spreading environmental awareness We deal with local and global organisations and we established the first diving school to spread this family sport.
Tell us about the Future Experts centre.
I established Future Experts in 2001. The different departments include Kindergarten Future Experts, Training Center, Educational Consulting Office and the Social Consulting Office to work on developing and empowering the women of Saudi Arabia through different programmes of individual consulting or group work. Khabeerat was one of the biggest programmes we created during 2007-2008, where over 1,000 women were trained on basic life working skills in four cities in Saudi Arabia.
What about Tarweesheh?
I helped to set up Tarweesheh, an initiative to transfer a plastic bag into a work of art. The aim is to protect the environment using the theme of recycling, in addition to enabling Saudi women and giving them a chance to work.
This project won several awards due to its unique team and was chosen as the best social project in the Middle East by Harvard University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and King Abdullah University. We also received a nomination for the King Khalid Award in 2014.
Why do you focus on the environment rather than other matters important to Saudi women?
I believe the principle of human succession on Earth can be achieved through this, as God has ordered us to protect the Earth and not demolish it. Enlightening the individual about the importance of looking after the environment and not harming it is directly linked to our religion and it’s a project I will work on for the rest of my life. I have studied parts of the Islamic religion and read a lot about Islamic intellect, which I believe to be the main foundation.
What is your perspective on life?
It’s about role management and … understanding. For example, I have loved reading and writing since childhood, as it the best way I express myself. So I wrote a book in 1995, but didn’t have the chance to pen a children’s story till 2015. It targets children from seven to 10 years and it focuses on environmental education.
Do you have any advice for Saudi businesswomen starting their journey?
I believe in the Saudi woman, she is giving and distinct. I advise her to continue doing what she is doing. Do not forget your role, your femininity and motherhood. Continue to educate yourself.