From talk show hosts to MPs, Middle Eastern women make their mark

From Iraq’s Zainab Salbi to Jordan’s Haifa Najjar, a lot of Arab women made it big in their fields this year

Leen Hajjar
Leen Hajjar - Al Arabiya News
Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
4 min read

If you search the term “women in the Middle East” online, you will come across phrases such as “discrimination against women” and “what life looks like in the Middle East for Islamic women.” For decades, many around the world have assumed that all Arab women are oppressed and subservient to men, unfamiliar with their success, creativity and intelligence. Many Arab women are community leaders and influential figures globally.

Iraqi-born Zainab Salbi is founder and former executive director of the non-profit organization Women for Women International, which helps female survivors of war. She also recently launched her own talk show “Nida’a” on the TLC network.

The show combines social and cultural issues with stories that acknowledge Arab women and celebrate people who have contributed positively to society. Guests have included talk show host Oprah Winfrey, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Egyptian actress Yusra. It is broadcast in 22 countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2011, Newsweek and The Guardian placed Salbi in a list of the top 100 most influential women. She was identified by Fortune Magazine as one of the most influential women on Twitter in 2014.

Salbi told the Saudi Gazette: “I think we need so many more shows to acknowledge Arab women and all their stories and all their contributions. We equally need to talk about the possibilities of change and development within our own culture and traditions. Many women are doing that but they are yet to be acknowledged fully.”

Jordanian Haifa Najjar graduated from high school and university in Jordan, extremely passionate about education and determined to influence her country. Today, she is a member of the upper house of parliament, and director of a private school for girls.

“My biggest ongoing achievement is empowering young women to be agents of change and making them capable of creating a future of their own choice through being lifelong learners, critical thinkers, emotionally intelligent, ethical beings open to diversity, initiators of change, and finally, knowledge creators,” she said.

Yemeni Manahel Thabet was named by Arabian Business one of the world’s 100 most powerful Arab women. A PhD in financial engineering and quantum mechanics, combined with an IQ of 168, easily placed her among the most inspirational Arab women in the world. Last year, she was named Genius of the Year Asia, and was chosen to be part of the World Genius Directory.

Thabet received a U.N. award for undertaking humanitarian missions in Africa, and is a former member of the Young Arab Leaders organization, which aims to create positive and lasting change in the Arab world by developing a network of young leaders. She has achieved these numerous endeavors while running SmartTips, a Dubai-based consultancy that she established.

She told Arabian Business: “We’re heading to an intelligence era, but before we do there is a new dawn of a creative era rising and it must be addressed, we should be equipped to enter into that era. We cannot deny that knowledge is an effective engine for the knowledge-based era and science is the driving force of human and urban development.”

These female leaders are only a glimpse at the many inspirational Arab women that are making a mark on the world.

Top Content Trending