Women are often portrayed as victims of conflict, especially in the media’s representations of the Middle East. Although women face a variety of challenges including underrepresentation in politics, exclusions and barriers from the workforce, as well as repercussions of familial status laws, physical and even sexual abuse, what often goes unrecognized is the hard work and determination of women despite all of the obstacles meant to hinder their growth. For International Women’s Day, we highlight 8 inspiring women in leadership that counter these challenges and strive to make the world a better place for themselves, families and communities.
Manal AL-Sharif, a Saudi female activist began the movement to protest for women’s right to drive in 2011. Manal Al-Sharif was detained for her activism and even after her release she continues to fight for women’s rights in Saudia Arabia. She is also the founder of the Women2Hack Academy, a program that aims to foster tech talent in Saudi Arabia, with a focus on information security.
Dina El Mofty
Dina El Mofty is the founder of Injaz Egypt, an organization that partners with schools and universities across the country, impacting over half a million Egyptian students and helping train them to become future entrepreneurs. Recently, the company "has seed funded and supported over 50 successful startup businesses." She was also nominated by Arabian Business as one of the world’s most influential young Arabs under 40.
Noura Erakat is a Palestinian human rights attorney and an Associate Professor at Rutgers University. She is a Co-Founding Editor of Jadaliyya, and the author of Justice for Some: Law and in the Question of Palestine, winner of the 2019 Palestine Book Awards.
Starting off as an online beauty blogger in 2010 Huda Kattan grew into a guru for the masses in the beauty world and pioneered her own field. She launched the world-renowned Huda Beauty in 2013 which has become a global household name and made her a figure many look up to.
Noura Al Kaabi
Named one of the most powerful Arabs under 40, Noura Al Kaabi has been at the forefront of positive change and cultural development in the UAE. A highly decorated woman who has been awarded the title “Business Woman of the Year” at the Gulf Business Awards, named in Forbes’ list of the “30 Most Influential Women in Government”, and was named as Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” list, her contributions to the cultural environment in the UAE cannot be overstated. Her role as Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development has brought events like the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and Abu Dhabi Media Summit and so much more.
Known as “Mother of the Revolution”, Tawwakkol Karman was one of the most prominent activists in the 2011 Yemeni uprising that was considered part of the “Arab Spring” movement. She is also the co-founder of “Women Journalists Without Chains”, and was a co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the Arab woman to do so.
Amani Al Hosani
The first female Emirati nuclear scientist. She began her career in the oil industry, but switched to the nuclear energy industry. She is now employed in a managerial role at Nawah Energy Company, operators of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi, which is set to be the first commercial nuclear power station in the Arabian Peninsula when it begins running next year
Muna El-Kurd is a 23-year-old Palestinian activist who has played a pivotal role in protests against Israel's forceful expulsion of Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The El-Kurd family, more notably Muna and her brother Mohammed, were at the forefront of months of protests against the planned evictions. Although they were both temporarily detained, the siblings continue to stand at the face of adversity in order to challenge existing narratives about Palestinian resistance by being more vocal than ever via viral social media posts & interviews.
Above are only a few of many trailblazing women who have empowered many to be bold and brave with their ideas and actions. We hope this list helps start the conversation and inspires you to make a difference, however small you may think it is, it can be extremely significant to others. Happy International Women’s day to all!