Feras Bugnah puts himself in other people’s shoes

Updated 20 February 2013

Feras Bugnah puts himself in other people’s shoes

Feras Bugnah started a voluntary group named “Ghairny” (change me). It focuses on changing bad habits in society by using simple means.
His YouTube show called “Youmak Maai” (Your day with me) invites viewers to reconsider people who have a different status in society. The show teaches viewers how to deal with them correctly.
“The ultimate goal of the program was to know that you are not living in society alone. There are others to think about too,” he said.
Bugnah was born and raised in Riyadh. He studies Finance at Prince Sultan University.
Life & Style had a chat with him last week.

So far your YouTube channel FMB4Tube published six episodes of the show. Are there more?
So far, no. I don’t think that I would like to do more episodes for the same show. My idea for the channel is to have new shows with new concepts every now and then. My next show is going to be under a different name and a different concept.

You have stepped into the shoes of many persons for the show. Tell us about your experiences.
The experience I went through for the first episode, “The Cleaner,” was very hard. To me it was the hardest. For the first time in my life I had to sleep with 17 people in a single room. Then I had to work more than eight hours under the sun. I had to bend down several times to pick up the trash other people left behind, to clean the roads. Wearing a uniform was very hard to get used to. I don’t regret the experience, but it was really tough.
When I was a beggar in the second episode, it was the most embarrassing experience I ever had. I had to go up to people and beg them for money. In real life I was not used to ask even my parents for money. The most embarrassing part was when I walked to cars asking for money. Some of the people in the cars knew me, and some rejected me in a shameful way. Even if it wasn’t to me personally, it felt bad.
For the third episode I stepped into the shoes of a kidney patient. We had to get accepted by a hospital to use their facilities. Then we had to convince them that our show would show them in a positive light. And after all, the doctors should act in a way that would make the viewer understand the message behind it. The episode was very emotional for me personally, because it reminded me of my uncle who passed away many years ago. He was really close to my brothers and me.
I loved experiencing what life is like to a blind person in the fourth episode. I often thought what it would be like if I lost my vision. This experience would be a dream come true, and I got to film it? Great! I really felt useless and I was walking like a baby: confused and not knowing if I was facing the right path or not. I was so careful and every step was so slow that the cameramen asked me to go faster. I was terrified when I crossed the road in front of the traffic light. I was afraid that maybe a car would come and hit me.
The episode where I was a handicapped person was one of the best. Not because I enjoyed doing it, but because people were more than great with me! They stopped their cars for me to help me when I waited for a taxi that never came. They pushed my wheelchair when it was hot from the sun, and they didn’t stare a lot at me. The dark side was that there aren’t many facilities for handicapped people.
The sixth and final episode was about why we made this show, and we showed some footage that wasn’t used previously.

How did you choose your characters?
By brainstorming with my friends and choosing the characters that the viewer can relate to and can interact with in daily life. The characters should have an obvious feature that anyone would recognize. I eliminated some characters, such as the orphan.

After the success of your show, are you considering acting as a career?
Acting? If it would be for a good cause, I don’t see why not.

How did people react to Youmak Maai?
It was beyond our expectations! When people came out to greet the workers and cleaners at Eid-al-Fitr and gave them presents, we knew we had done something right. Our audience is willing to do nice things to others if they have the chance to.

What is the future of the show?
Youmak Maai ended by the end of Ramadan 2012 and we will come up with a new show and a different idea. When? I don’t know yet. Not soon.

Why did you choose to publish your show on YouTube instead of via an official TV channel?
We had the chance to air it on a well-known channel but they asked for 30 episodes and we couldn’t deliver. Another reason was that our targeted viewers were young. We thought we could reach them best via our YouTube channel.

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’No place for a mother’: S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

(FILES) This photo taken on March 22, 2016 shows a child gesturing to a woman at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. (AFP)
Updated 18 December 2018

’No place for a mother’: S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

  • Now 27, she has been rejected at several job interviews as soon as she revealed she had a child, and has given up seeking employment, trying to set up her own trading business instead

SEOUL: When Ashley Park started her marketing job at a Seoul drugmaker she had a near-perfect college record, flawless English, and got on well with her colleagues — none of which mattered to her employer once she fell pregnant.
Nine months after she joined, Park said, “They said to my face that there is no place in the company for a woman with a child, so I needed to quit.”
All the women working at the firm were single or childless, she suddenly realized, and mostly below 40.
Park’s case exemplifies why so many South Korean women are put off marriage and childbirth, pushing the country’s birth rate — one of the world’s lowest — ever further down.
Earlier this month Seoul announced its latest set of measures to try to stem the decline, but critics say they will have little to no effect in the face of deep-seated underlying causes.
Many South Korean firms are reluctant to employ mothers, doubting their commitment to the company and fearing that they will not put in the long hours that are standard in the country — as well as to avoid paying for their legally-entitled birth leave.
When Park refused to quit, her boss relentlessly bullied her — banning her from attending business meetings and ignoring her at the office “like I was an invisible ghost” — and management threatened to fire her husband, who worked at the same company.
After fighting for about six months, she finally relented and offered her resignation, giving birth to a daughter a month later. Aside from a brief stint at an IT start-up that did not keep its promise of flexible working hours, she has been a stay-at-home mother ever since.
“I studied and worked so hard for years to get a job when youth unemployment was so high, and enjoyed my work so much... and look what happened to me,” Park told AFP.
Now 27, she has been rejected at several job interviews as soon as she revealed she had a child, and has given up seeking employment, trying to set up her own trading business instead.
“The government kept telling women to have more children... but how, in a country like this?” she asked.

The South’s fertility rate — the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime — fell to 0.95 in the third quarter of 2018, the first time it has dropped below 1 and far short of the 2.1 needed to maintain stability.
As a result of the trend, which has been dubbed a “birth strike” by women, the population of the world’s 11th largest economy, currently 51 million, is expected to start falling in 2028.
Many cite reasons ranging from the expense of child-rearing, high youth unemployment, long working hours and limited daycare to career setbacks for working mothers.
Even if women hold on to their jobs, they bear a double burden of carrying out the brunt of household chores.
Patriarchal values remain deeply ingrained in the South: nearly 85 percent of South Korean men back the idea of women working, according to a state survey, but that plummets to 47 percent when asked whether they would support their own wives having a job.
Employment rates for married men and women are dramatically different — 82 percent and 53 percent respectively.
Now nearly three-quarters of South Korean women aged 20-40 see marriage as unnecessary, an opinion poll by a financial magazine and a recruitment website showed. But almost all children in the South are born in wedlock.

Against that backdrop, the South’s government has spent a whopping 136 trillion won ($121 billion) since 2005 to try to boost the birth rate, mostly through campaigns to encourage more young people to wed and reproduce, without success.
Earlier this month it announced yet another round of measures.
They included expanding child subsidies of up to 300,000 won ($270) a month, and allowing parents with children younger than eight to work an hour less each day to take care of their offspring.
More daycare centers and kindergartens will be built, and men will be allowed — but not obliged — to take 10 days of paid birth leave, up from the current three.
But many measures were not legally binding and carried no punishment for firms that denied their workers the promised benefits, and the package met a disdainful response.
“The government policies are based on this simplistic assumption that ‘if we give more money, people would have more children’,” the Korea Women Workers Association said in a statement.
Seoul should first address “relentless sexual discrimination at work and the double burden of work and housechores” for women, it added.
The centrist Korea Times newspaper also questioned whether such “lacklustre” state policies would bring in real change unless the government tackled the real drivers of women shunning marriage and childbirth.
“Unless these harsh conditions for women change, no amount of government subsidies will convince women having children is a happy choice.”