A woman of many talents
By Patricia Hului
‘Jack of all trades’ seems like an understatement when it comes to 34-year-old Shurooq Al Banna.
She graduated as one of the top UAE students in 1998 and was granted the Rashid Academic Award for excellence, an annual award to UAE students who have achieved outstanding results.
In 2004, she graduated with Bachelor of Science in Genetics from Queen Mary University in London and continued in the same field where she took Masters in Forensic Science.
Shurooq returned to the UAE late in 2006 where she joined the Genetics Centre under the Dubai Health Authority as a cytogeneticist until 2008.
Back in UAE, she pursued another postgraduate degree and graduated in 2010 with a Masters in Strategic Marketing from the University of Wollongong in Dubai.
Currently, Shurooq is the marketing specialist at the Noor Dubai Foundation, an NGO focusing the prevention of blindness globally.
She also runs the annual successful charity art exhibition and auction where all proceeds from artwork sales go to the prevention of blindness and its treatment in countries in need.
All of these qualifications, however, were not what brought Shurooq to Malaysia for the first time last week – it was her passion for public speaking.
Shurooq won the humorous speech category in District 20 Toastmasters Annual Conference (DTAC) 2012 in Bahrain and International Speech Contest in DTAC 2013.
Yet, her most acclaimed accomplishments in public speaking came when she became the first Arab woman who made it to the final round of the World Championship of Public Speaking 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio and subsequently brought home the second runner-up prize.
On May 15, Shurooq shared her love for public speaking in a talk ‘Public Speaking is Fun’ to some 50 students between 13 to 24 years of age.
The talk was organised by Islamic Information Centre (IIC) as part of special exhibition called ‘IIC: Our Story’ at the Boulevard Shopping Mall held in conjunction with its 7th anniversary.
“Public speaking is only a hobby of mine which I join in on my free time,” Shurooq said. “But the fact that I’m so passionate about my hobby and able to take it far by being the first Arab woman to win the world championship is both an honour and a responsibility because I now have to be role model for these young girls.”
Shurooq wants all the youth to know the benefits of public speaking in their lives.
“What I love to do is to encourage the youths, young girls and young men to use public speaking in their lives because I know it will help them so much like it helped me,” she said. She believed if you’re confident in any stage, you will be confident in every aspect of your life and public speaking will also help practitioners to communicate better.
Shurooq highlighted that the fear of public speaking is the number one fear in the world, even beating out the fear of death.
“Facing your fear is easier said than done,” she said.“What I do is, I put one very small thing in my mind that I’m just going to face regardless of what happens.
“This fear of public speaking only lasts seven seconds. If you get through the seven seconds, you are going to be absolutely fine,” Shurooq encouraged.
Even if you forget your lines or fall down on stage, she emphasised that the show had to go on.
“If you do this over and over again, it is going to be easier and you’re not going to be afraid anymore,” Shurooq said. “This is the magic of public speaking; the more public speaking you do, the more you stand in front of the stage and speak in front of people, the more confident you become.”
She wanted Malaysian youths to believe in themselves saying, “You are amazing. Don’t listen to anyone else.”
Besides her hobby of public speaking, Shurooq is also crazy about books, saying that she takes care of her book collection better than she does her jewellery.
Shurooq cited Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Elif Shafak and Yasser Hereb as her favourite writers.
Her favourite book is ‘My Name is Red’ by Orhan Pamuk which won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. “This is the best book I have read in my whole life. This is the book when I first started to read it I cannot keep it down. It kept me so into it, so immersed in it.”
“I don’t want to tell more about this book because it is a mystery but I just say to people go and read this book, you will find out why.”
About her day job at Noor Dubai Foundation, Shurooq said: “I handle marketing and communication. I get to travel to all over the world Africa, Asia to very remote areas where there is no primary health care services.”
She explained she was part of organising team that do mobile eye camps, providing free surgery, glasses, free medication and training for doctors in remote areas of countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Togo and Ghana.
“I love my job because it is very gratifying and I get to sleep at night happy about what I have done during the day.”
Besides the talk by Shurooq, other activities organised by IIC were collaborative programme with Pustaka Negeri Sarawak ‘Let’s Read With Us’ to encourage children as well as parents to develop a love of books.
The event also featured exhibitions by IIC itself and other organisations including Lembaga Amanah Kebajikan Masjid Negeri Sarawak, Tabung Baitulmal Sarawak and Jabatan Mufti Negeri Sarawak.