Ghalyah Alhendi: An Interview With a Youth Activist




As a publication for and by young women, The Alcott Youth Magazine strives to highlight the diverse accomplishments of girls from around the world. Ghalyah Alhendi, a rising senior from the United Arab Emirates, recently took her time to share with us her experiences as a youth activist. Alhendi is the founder of an organization known as Peoplability, whose mission is to help students with disabilities advance their education. Many individuals with intellectual disabilities in the UAE are unemployed or have yet to receive a university degree. Peoplability hopes to break down these barriers and bring the UAE closer to equality.


Alhendi, who described herself as a “huge math and tech nerd,” has always been driven to expand her knowledge, whether by studying at ADNOC high school or learning throughout her current summer quarter at Stanford. When she witnessed the obstacles those with disabilities faced in continuing their education, she knew it was time to generate change. The main goal of Peoplability “is to help special needs students get opportunities such as internships, volunteering experience and workshop experience that help prepare them for the workforce. We do this by a system called the Unified Pair, where every special needs student is paired up with a neurotypical [student]… This of course helps the special needs student feel more welcome, but also educates the neurotypical student about people with different abilities and helps our community treat everyone equally, regardless of their different abilities.” Alhendi believes that her organization will foster a generation in which everyone "is putting hand in hand together and working to create an inclusive community.”


Her work has had a remarkable effect on participants. “We have gotten a ton of heart-warming messages from parents saying that Peoplability has helped their kids build bonds and look forward [to] their future goals and realize they are possible… And not only are we helping special needs students, but we heard back from a number of neurotypical students saying that they have never really thought about how special needs students can often get rejected by society. But with Peoplability they are learning that it is very important to include them.”


However, as a young woman pioneering her own organization, Alhendi has encountered some challenges. “Sometimes with certain companies I have not been taken as seriously since I am a sixteen-year-old woman, and sometimes I get remarks on how I share my opinions on ‘a controversial topic’ in our society… especially as [an] Arab female. But the support I get from my country and government is tremendous and even though I get certain remarks, I have never let that stop me because the main goal is to change the mindsets of our society to become inclusive.”


Alhendi has even more goals for the future of Peoplability. “While my organization is currently just focused on a national level, I am hoping to expand it to a global level. I plan to do so by spreading the word of inclusion and Peoplability in the Global Youth Leadership Summit 2023 in Berlin where I will be representing the UAE. I am also hoping to collaborate with more companies to help other workforces become inclusive...”


Alhendi has learned much from heading her own organization, but her most valuable takeaway is simple: “…Every single person, regardless of their abilities, has a purpose and something that makes them special that they could really excel in. In my organization, I learnt that there are incredible people who have abilities that I could never have and all we had to do is help them a tiny bit.”



About the Author:


Kaitlyn Donato is a high school student from Winchester, MA. In her sophomore year, Kaitlyn recognized that there were too few magazines focused on writing for and by young women, and decided to create The Alcott Youth Magazine. With the magazine, she hopes to publish inspirational writing for all young people to enjoy.