“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”
Ladies, is it really possible to have it all? To balance career and home? To raise a family and grow a business? To be sought after for your leadership abilities and also for your kindness?
It’s always a tightrope walk. But there are shining examples of women who do it every day with courage and grace. They show what women can do in any field if given the opportunity to do so. They push further and rise higher than what is expected of them. We’ve taken a look around the region and we’ve found incredible women who are respected and revered not just in the Arab world, but around the world.
- Queen Rania of Jordan: As queen of Jordan, Queen Rania is a strong progressive voice in the Arab world and is a strong advocate for education, health and women’s issues. While her youthful appeal and glamorous beauty have made her an international icon, she has used her fame to propel the causes closest to her heart. She’s an outspoken opponent of the traditional practice of ‘honor killing’, and has worked tirelessly to dispel stereotypes of Arab women. Despite her royal status, her humility is truly inspirational – “At the end of the day you are living your life for the people that you represent. It’s an honor and a privilege to have that chance to make a difference – a qualitative difference in people’s lives – and it’s my responsibility to make the most out of that opportunity.”
- Shaikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, UAE: Shaikha Lubna has the distinction of being the first woman in the UAE to hold a ministerial berth. As Minister for International Co-operation and Development, she is an inspiration for women to have confidence in themselves and achieve their goals. “Believe in yourself and doors will open for you,” she advises young women. Shaikha Lubna is ranked 1st in the Forbes list of 10 most powerful Arab women in government (2015) and 50 most powerful women worldwide. Taking her role of service to her country and humanity further, she also volunteers with Friends of Cancer Patients and serves on the Dubai Autism Centre Board of Directors.
- Nayla Al Khaja: Nayla Al Khaja is the UAE’s first ever female director and founder of one of the most successful production companies in the area, D-Seven Motion Pictures. Her first short film on the issue of child abuse premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2007 where she was awarded, ‘Best Emirati Filmmaker’.
She has gained repute as a bold filmmaker who tackles subjects that are usually not discussed in the Emirates, ranging from arranged marriages to the secret dates women go on without their parents approval. Al Khaja has been awarded a number of awards from all over the world, most notably ‘Emirates Woman of the Year’ presented to her by Benazir Bhutto in 2005.
- Dr. Hayat Sindi: A medical scientist, Sindi holds the distinction of being the first Saudi Muslim woman in the Middle East to get a PhD in biotechnology. She was also one of the first female members of the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia. Apart from her work, she also devotes time to her pet charity – Diagnostics for All – of which she is the co-founder. Diagnostics for All is an NGO that provides medical care in remote impoverished areas. As she says, “a true scientist should focus on affordable simple solutions to reach everyone in the world.” She has called on countries in the Middle East to focus on science education, calling for an increase in spending on this field in education. On account of her work in promoting education, Sindi has been appointed as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador in the Middle East.
- Zainab Salbi: Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi-American humanitarian, author, woman-rights activist and media commentator. At the age of 23, she founded Women for Women International – a grassroots development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of war, which reaches out to over 400,000 women in 8 conflict areas in the world. She is the author of 3 bestselling books which have received support from iconic women writers and celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie and others. She has a talk show on Discovery Channel’s TLC network which addresses social and cultural issues and has featured prominent guests including former US president Bill Clinton.
- Suzanne Al Houbi: A Palestinian mountain climber, Suzanne Al Houby is the first Arab woman to climb Mount Everest. She has climbed 6 of the 7 highest peaks in each continent. When she’s not climbing mountains, Suzanne runs Rahhalah Explorers, an adventure travel company. Her joy is to take young people through wilderness experiences and give them focus. In 2014, she led two Palestinian teenage amputees to become the first Arab amputees to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro.