Colombia professor describes social enterprises, highlights education’s importance

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By Tuqa Al Ayoubi

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH – Ameera Amir, founder of social enterprises Lahum and Weyakum, stressed the importance of education during an online, Instagram-live session with the AUS Sustainability office in the American University of Sharjah on Nov. 25 at 8 p.m.

“I’ve always been an avid supporter of education and access to education,” said Amir, a professor of innovation and urban social policy at Columbia University.

She has an undergraduate degree in finance, and although she said she is good at math and tutors high school students in algebra, she wanted to study linguistics and international affairs, but did not know how all these things came together.

Amir said she knew that many high school students struggled with knowing or finding the right path because no one was there to guide them. Since she went through a similar experience, that encouraged her to start Weyakum.

The name Weyakum translates to “with you.” Amir said the title is a response to the patronization felt when outsiders say: “Let me do this for you, let me help you.”

Instead, Amir said, her thought when choosing the name was “Let’s do this together.”

Amir said many people discouraged her and told her it would never take off.

However, Weyakum won an award for affecting the lives of over 3,000 young adults and taking part in one of the United Nations’ first programs.

According to the AUS Sustainability office, “Lahum is the UAE’s first second-hand store that promotes sustainability in fashion and uses its profits to provide educational scholarships.”

The store is built from used shipping containers, the profits are earned from re-selling donated clothes, and the mission is aimed at helping students in the UAE, the AUS Sustainability office said. 

Of Lahum, which translates to “for them,” Amir said the organization’s title meant “for the children,” where she started collecting donated clothes and selling them.

She said “transparency is always the key to success, in my opinion,” which is why she made sure to communicate the mission of using proceeds towards funding children’s education. 

“We’ve signed a partnership agreement with these schools, where they have to [strictly] give this towards the tuition fees,” Amir said.

For more information and stories of the people whose lives were affected positively by these organizations, visit: www.lahum.org, www.weyakum.org.

For the AUS Sustainability’s office Instagram account: @aussustainability; the live event can be seen at https://www.instagram.com/tv/CIBYJO8plKq/?igshid=z6zmavw2tmej