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Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem presents Awatif Akbari with her Dubai Leaders programme award
The first visually-impaired graduate of the Dubai Leaders Programme
Awatif Akbari used two powerful tools to reach her latest achievement ¬- ambition and willpower. Now she has become the first visually-impaired graduate of the Dubai Leaders Programme.

Awatif is Head of Training at Tamkeen, a Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) initiative which prepares visually-impaired people for the workplace and works to raise the standard of services available to them.

In 2002, she achieved a first when she became the first visually-impaired person to receive an award from the Dubai Government Excellence Programme and was honoured by HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

It was he who motivated her to become Head of Training at Tamkeen, which gives her the chance to pass on her knowledge and expertise to other people with visual impairment.

Having achieved all of that, she joined the Dubai Leaders Programme, which lasts a year and combines theory taught at Wharton University in Pennsylvania, USA, with practice applied abroad and in the UAE.

The graduation ceremony was attended by Mohammad Al Gargawi, UAE Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, Chairman of the Executive Office and Executive Chairman and CEO of Dubai Holding, and the Chairman of Dubai World, HE Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem.

The ceremony honoured the first two batches of graduates, including 80 nationals who have topped the Dubai Leaders Programme. The programme is an initiative of Dubai World in partnership with the ARISTI Institute for Executive Education and Wharton University.

Awatif said, “I am proud, not because of being the first visually-impaired graduate of this program, but because I work for the Government of Dubai, where you are evaluated and assessed according to your performance and not anything else.

“Moreover, our leaders have invested highly in developing the national skills and qualifications regardless of their physical challenges. The interest of HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum in physically-challenged people is an honour for us, and a motivator to work harder.”

She added, “People with a physical challenge face a lot of difficulties in their lives, but they have to work hard and not depend on others. Those who love what they do and believe in it gain the respect of others.”

“When I was chosen for the Dubai Leaders Programme by Dubai World I was enthusiastic and never had second thoughts. I joined the programme to prove that my physical challenge would not stand between me and achieving my dreams.

“Although the programme was hard, I managed to attend classes and travel with my colleagues, till the day came and I was one of the graduates. I am proud and honoured.”

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General of the KHDA, said: “We are very proud of Awatif and her achievements. Her determination is inspiring to all of us, but more importantly she is a strong role model for the students she has contact with day-to-day. She is showing them that hard work and willpower together will always get you nearer to your dreams. I have always believed that special needs bring special strengths, and Awatif has proved that this is true.”

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