EMPOWER MAG - The First Mental Health Magazine in the MENA

Ally Salama

Promotional URL: http://www.empower-mag.com/

Provide a summary of the concept, how it works/could work, and why it could be successful

We produce relatable Mental Health content to address the Arab population via an online
platform. Most Arabs have very limited access to mental health information therefore,
using our team of contributors, we address key issues.
Empower Magazine is built on the primary fundamental pillar of “Community”.
Every week we host 3 community members from the Arab world, across a wide range of
professions, to talk about the role that mental health plays in their lives.
From music producers, talking about the vitality of emotional intelligence when working
with men who showcase emotions only via art, to sexologists, who talk about the impact
of mental health and sexual performance, to speaking with Dr. Mo AlSuweidan, a leading
worldwide psychiatrist, on key issues in the MENA.
In short, Empower Magazine aims to bring and shed light from all angles of mental health,
shifting our audience’s perception of mental health.
Empower’s work was picked up by Dr. Khalid Saeed, WHO Regional Director, World Health
Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean. On July 23rd we flew to attend
their workshop on combating the stigma in the Middle East in Sharm El Sheikh.
It’s worth mentioning that Empower’s personal mentor is Dr. Nasser Loza, one of the finest
psychiatrists in the region, and ACH 2019’s keynote speaker on Mental Health.
In September we are starting the first mental health fundraiser in Egypt, to help educate
people on mental health across high schools in the country.
That will be in joint collaboration with NGO, Neya, in Cairo Egypt.

Explain briefly the specific problem(s) you are trying to solve, and how your solution impacts or will impact the region

We are solving the Mental Health Epidemic in the Region.
We believe it’s stemmed from ignorance via the stigma attached to it, and thus the lack of
psychiatric resources.
Education is the missing pillar Empower is bringing into the region.
With underreported suicide rates being one of many mental health challenges in the
MENA, we are trying to shift the region’s perception through building understanding and
empathy via our articles and our work.
We have also been involved with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. They have
offered us many advice in working with their existing resources, for implementation in the
Middle East.
These initiatives include on-ground activities such as Frameworks of Summits that
Empower can facilitate in select countries for high school students. In addition, a
workplace mental health initiative is in place as well.
Our work, once scaled could change the quality of life in the Middle East.
With minimal effort, via myself running the platform on social media, our posts reach up to
2.3 Million users per month.
At Empower, we connect and directs patients, enthusiast while offering them a media
platform and setting up on-ground initiatives to help the cause.
Once our affiliation with the WHO is confirmed we can have a tremendous impact working
with them on social media campaigns, which is our specialty.
It’s important to note that our audience now primarily consists of females, aged 15 – 25
living in the Middle East.
We measure our impact via the responses we receive from our audience and our
community of Mental Health professionals who are invested in helping us impact as many
Millenials and Gen Z as possible.
Via building a Mental Health News and Media platform in Arabic and English, we’ll be able to create significant change in the Middle East. With Harvard’s support, we believe change
is near and more than possible.

Geographical Scope: where is the innovation currently operating/where would it first be applied and where would it scale?

Currently, we are now online.
Our first on-ground initiative is due in Egypt on September 16th.

Please state the current status of your initiative

Active initiative

Beneficiaries: Explain who would benefit from this solution and indicate whether you would be working with a local partner or organization to implement (if so,specify)

Most Mental Health Services, if not all, in the Middle East would benefit from our activities.
We’ve been redirecting patients who reach out for support to professionals we trust.
Confidentiality remains a huge challenge in the mental health services sector and we’re
aiming to tackle that through our work.
Once scaled, Empower will be the To-Go-To platform of Mental Health News/Media Outlet
in the Middle East.
We like to think of the future of Empower to be The Forbes of Mental Health.
Currently, we offer consultations for WHO future initiatives and attend WHO events.
We are looking to partner up with UNICEF to help support children’s mental health across
We are aiming to work with Dubai Youth Council in 2020, for their Mental Health 4 strategy
up till 2021. ‘Happy Lives, Healthy Communities’. In Dubai, an estimated 1.3 million people
are in need of mental health help.

Describe the scalability and innovation elements of your initiative

1) Scaling Empower Magazine from online to print is one of our major opportunities. (there
are no print mental health magazines, even at mental health clinics. The need has been
validated by our professional network of 9 psychologists and psychiatrists.)
2) Scaling Empower Magazine to an online merchandise shop. (We are aiming to not just
be a media/news outlet, but also to build a lifestyle around our new perception around
mental health. This helps our audience feel much more connected. Wearing empower will
be symbolic and subtle.
3)Scaling Empower Magazine to Arabic. Currently, we are an English platform serving an
Arab population thus our potential reach is much more significant.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of resources, we haven’t been able to take that step.
4)Scaling Empower into Youth Summits across the Arab Region, supported by our network
of professionals.
5)Scaling Empower into Mental Health Initiatives in the workplace in the Middle East.
(Once our brand equity has value and is supported by readers and professionals, we are
looking into developing mental health initiatives to reduce burnout and improve employees
quality of work-life) in the region.

Please state your innovation sponsor (if applicable)

Dr. Nasser Loza – My Personal and Direct Mentor
WHO EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office) – Direct Partners

What are your key resources at this stage and what resources would you need to implement/scale?

Our Key Resources are our database and our Online Traffic.
In addition, below are what we would need to scale for our community:
-An Arabic-based web developer.
-Fund to sustain a team of 4 to work on business development, publishing and editorials
for Empower.
-An Investment to help launch our print business to our local vendors in the Middle East.
-Affiliation with Key Partners in MENA

What are your key challenges and risks at this stage?

Talent and Funds.
My biggest challenge isn’t in finding reliable contributors to write credible mental health
articles; instead – my challenge is finding people willing to help Run the Magazine and it’s
key initiatives in creating a unique brand for the cause and serving the region.
Ideally a Business Developer, a Visual Director (with Graphic Design Background) are 2
main roles Empower needs to build equitable brand equity in the MENA.
Being a full time employee, myself, at RBC Canada, time is also a limiting factor in
communicating with partners in the MENA due to timezone constraints.

What are your goals and timeline?

Goal 1:
By September, 2019 Successfully Launch Our Fundraiser, Accumulating $5000 in total
Goal 2:
By November 2019. Successfully include 5 Corporations under The Empower Directory,
which will state that these companies will be incorporating mental health initiatives for
their employees. (More details on that coming soon)
Goal 3:
By December 2019, Successfully Launching our First Print Magazine across 10 mental
health service clinics in Cairo, Dubai and Beirut.

Why should this innovation be selected?

As a former Pro Egyptian Swimmer, who suffered from Clinical Depression for 3 years,
recovering from the illness taught me how ignorant Arabs are on the subject.
It’s also worth noting that, Empower came to life when I visited ACH 2019 and met Dr.
Nasser Loza. It was Raja who opened the doors for us to communicate and based on our
conversation that day, we flew out to collaborate with the WHO. The rest is history.
With Harvard’s support, I could commit full time to Empower and build annual summits
that can help educate youth via Sponsors support. Together we can save lives from
suicide and help heal patients in the Arab World.
In conclusion, should Harvard choose this innovation it would truly represent their position
when it comes to shifting the stereotype of mental health.
Also, being a male amongst a primarily women-driven discussion, it would be a symbolic
gesture from Harvard to help shift the perception of “masculinity” in the MENA.


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