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Friday, September 1, 2006

Queen Rania's Birthday

Queen Rania marks birthday

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department - Amman) Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, the youngest queen in the world, turned 36 today.

Queen Rania, who was in her 20s when she first ascended the throne, has always remained close to Jordan's youthful population. In an interview with an Italian newspaper this year, she said "When you look at Jordan, 70 percent of our population is under the age of 30, so technically I'm part of the old group of my country… We [King Abdullah and I] really try to be in touch with what [the youth's] aspirations are because that guides us in all that we do."

It is no coincidence then that much of Her Majesty's work this year has focused on educating and empowering youth. Locally, Queen Rania has traveled throughout the Kingdom to visit students of all ages, discuss their needs and concerns and improve their situations.

Among many of Her Majesty's destinations around the Kingdom were schools in Salt, Jerash, Karak, Ma'an, as well as East and West Amman.

At the Jerash Girls' School, she mingled with the students and previewed a lively performance that they were preparing for Independence Day. Queen Rania also visited the Parent Teacher Association to commend their efforts and encourage them to stay involved with their students.

After the November 2005 attacks in Amman, Queen Rania visited students at Al Ali High School to engage them in an open dialogue about their feelings and encourage them to express their shock and grief. "We are one family, and we were all touched by this," she said.

Queen Rania attended the launch of the School Adoption Program by INJAZ, in May, where she encouraged donors from the private sector, including companies like Royal Jordanian and Fastlink, to contribute funds and resources to public schools throughout the Kingdom to improve school facilities and offer students internship opportunities. Over 20 schools have already benefited from this collaboration, and INJAZ hopes to have at least 60 schools involved by next year.

Her Majesty's efforts also extend to improving the qualities and opportunities for higher education. She laid the foundation stone for the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship at the Princess Sumaya University of Technology, and attended a meeting at Al Balqa University highlighting the importance of social work and collaboration between Jordanian and British universities in this field. A number of scholarships have also been launched in Her Majesty's name which provide unique opportunities for Jordanian students to study at universities in Greece, Spain and Italy.

Recognizing that the most important indicator for quality of education is the quality of teachers, Queen Rania has initiated a number of efforts to boost teachers' morale and elevate the image of the teaching profession. This includes the Queen Rania Excellence Award for Teaching which will be awarded this October. Her Majesty has also honored teachers who are taking advantage of new opportunities, like training projects through Intel Teach to the Future which encourages teachers to incorporate technology into the classroom.

Internationally, Her Majesty has worked hard to advocate youth empowerment projects and to reinforce the value of education through her travels.

During a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January, Queen Rania said "[Jordan] may be a small country, but we have big ideas – and big ambitions for our young population." This included the pioneering Jordan Education Initiative, which came to life in 2003 under Her Majesty's patronage.

The initiative began as a project in Jordan, but went global this year as it reached India, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories. Queen Rania said she was proud to see that successful efforts, begun in Jordan, were being emulated throughout the world to give youth everywhere the best start to life.

In February, Queen Rania visited with youth in Turkey and participated in a roundtable discussion on the values of leadership and the importance of cross cultural dialogue- a theme she has repeatedly underscored both locally and internationally.

Her support for the newly launched Ben and Izzy cartoon this year is a testament to how strongly she believes that cross cultural interaction and understanding can positively affect children and make them more understanding individuals as they grow older. "[Ben and Izzy] opens the doors to great compassion and it strengthens bonds of friendship among the children of the world. To my mind, that is one of the greatest legacies we can give them," said the Queen at the launch party in New York in May.

In June, Queen Rania brought together women from different countries, backgrounds and sectors to launch the Global Women's Action Network for Children at a conference in the Dead Sea. The premise of this unique network is based on an action plan to curb maternal mortality and increase access to quality education for girls around the globe.

Queen Rania, who is known for her humanitarian work globally, launched a national campaign through the Jordan River Foundation to collect monetary and in-kind support for the people of the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. During week two of the collection efforts, Queen Rania visited JRF headquarters and helped the volunteers load the donations to send to the war torn areas. She also delivered food and medical supplies to earthquake victims in Pakistan last October. Jordan was one of the first countries to provide support to Pakistan.

For her local and international efforts to improve the standards of living, Her Majesty was awarded with the Honorary Citizenship of Milan and named among the distinguished TIME 100 people along with His Majesty King Abdullah II this year.

Queen Rania is affiliated with a number of local and international organizations. She is the Founder and Chairperson of the Jordan River Foundation and the National Council for Family Affairs in Jordan; Founder of the Al Aman Fund for the Future of Orphans in Jordan and of the Queen Rania Award for Excellence in Education in Jordan. Her Majesty is a Foundation Board Member of the World Economic Forum and presides on a number of boards including the United Nations Foundation; FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance); and the GAVI Fund (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization).

Her Majesty is also the Chairperson of the Young Global Leaders Nomination Committee and of the Regional Executive Committee of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). She is a member of the UNICEF Global Leadership Initiative for Children and the Regional Ambassador of INJAZ (Junior Achievements World Wide).