How this Saudi Arabian counsellor has become a voice of the unheard

Culture & Entertainment
Photo: Lama Younis, Criminologist and Forensic Psychologist, and Founder of Hissah Enrichment Center.

An early memory that is etched in Lama Younis’s mind is when, as a young girl, she was at a grocery store and saw a mother mercilessly hitting her child with a wooden spatula. Not only did security refuse to interfere, saying it was a family matter, but other shoppers just walked past as if this was completely normal.

The incident left such an impact on Lama’s young mind that she decided she needed to do something about it. “I realised that people need to be educated on the aspects of discipline and how to distinguish between discipline, punishment and abuse,” she told us.

After earning several degrees—one in counselling psychology at Saudi Arabia’s Effat University, and a master’s from Middlesex University in London with a double major in criminology and forensic psychology—plus a PhD in international childhood studies from the University of London, Lama joined the Human Relations Institute in Dubai in 2007. It is through her profession that she travelled across the Middle East, providing qualified and expert consulting and educational services.

But she hadn’t put her academic life on hold; in fact, she upped her qualifications with a postgraduate course at Harvard University titled “Delinquents, Criminals, Psychopaths and Terrorists”, and in 2013, she completed a postgraduate diploma in traumatology and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The education I have received, my years of experience working with abuse victims and researching topics related to abuse have helped me to understand the services and assistance that is required in the GCC to protect individuals and create safer communities,” Lama explained. “This is what led to the establishment of Hissah Enrichment Center, which was built in response to the region’s growing need to provide education, training and consulting in areas related to coping with societal change, and to strengthen personal and professional relationships in the workplace, the home and the community.”

SUPPORTING THOSE WHO CANNOT ASK FOR SUPPORT

Hissah Enrichment Center takes a progressive approach, supported by the most recent research in the art and science of psychology. They provide workshops, conferences, consultations, curriculum design, and innovative projects in the fields of personal and professional development.

Lama named the centre after her mother, her greatest inspiration.

“At first, my family did question me and where I saw myself in the future. They worried I would have no job to support myself! But I have proven myself, thanks to the generosity, compassion, and support of my mother, and my sisters, my friends, and my team at Hissah. Now, my strength has grown, thanks to my husband Yasser Zamzam, who is my pillar of support, anchor in life and emotional healer,” the newlywed said.

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In 2016, Lama started a non-profit organisation, The Lama Campaign. “During my work at the Hissah Center, I realised that the understanding of issues related to child abuse was rooted in cultural and social change. The engagement and commitment of communities is needed, and hence, The Lama Campaign, was born.

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“Our mission is to prevent the neglect, abuse, and exploitation of Muslim children and youth through education and awareness.” According to her, lack of proper awareness, education, and policy are the main reasons why these topics are still taboo.

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“There are no platforms where people can speak publicly about topics such as abuse, and therefore, people are not informed or educated properly about the dangers and precautions. I wanted to create a place where we can feel free to speak about the ills and dangers of our society and welcome those who suffer and need help [finding] a safe haven,” she added.

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Lama has received multiple accolades and awards for her work, but she does not let that slow down her drive for more. “The world inspires me to push myself every day and make a difference. Every person has a purpose in their life, and they should work towards shaping a better world. The more challenges come my way, the more ambitious I become. I have been fortunate to have the support of Allah, and my family.”

For Lama, it is especially important that we look to the future: “In order to educate the next generation, we need to know what we want tomorrow to look like, and what values we want the next generation of leaders to embody and uphold.”

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And she intends to be a driver towards that goal. “I am an inspiration, and I will never doubt it. It is my responsibility to be a good role model for the next generation, to be the hope and light to those who have lost it. I am the voice of the voiceless, and I only pray to be a positive change to the world.”

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