On the weekend of November 6, 2015, Jordan, and indeed the Arab world, lost two beautiful souls: Soraya and Jumana Salti. Two sisters who – each in her own way – touched many lives and worked on improving the state of our region. I am blessed to have had them in my life, and proud to call them my friends.
Within hours of the news, the Middle East business community reacted in sadness and shock. The reactions spread from Jordan, to the wider Middle East, and in less than 24 hours, condolences started pouring in from around the world.
Friends and colleagues reacted in disbelief, sadness, and a great sense of loss. The words they chose to mourn them paint a vibrant picture of their legacy, and how they touched our hearts and lives. “Soraya Salti, an Arab hero, moves on. You will be missed by the thousands of people you touched,” wrote Fadi Ghandour, the founder of Aramex. The former ICT Minister in Jordan, Marwan Juma, said Soraya was “vibrant, inspiring, positive, energetic, and full of life,” while he called Jumana a “beautiful spirit.” A fellow social entrepreneur, Rodrigo Baggio, said “Soraya was a brilliant leader, with charisma and a strong commitment towards social transformation. Without a doubt a role model for all of us and one of the most important social leaders in the Middle East.”
They were both passionate about education, youth, and building a better tomorrow. Anyone who has ever met them knows this to be true. They believed that education was the key to a brighter future for our region, and each pursued that goal in her own way.
Soraya was a celebrated entrepreneur and the founder of INJAZ, a regional non-profit organization that aims to empower youth and provide them with skills to bridge the gap between academia and the work place. She touched the hearts and lives of millions of the region’s young people, and will always be an inspiration. Always positive, always smiling, and always pushing us all to go the extra mile. In 2006, she won the Schwab Social Entrepreneur award for Jordan, became a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and was the first Arab woman to win the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2009. In 2013, Soraya was named as one of the 100 most powerful Arab women by Arabian Business.
“Injaz Al Arab is devastated by the passing of our founder and inspiration, Soraya Salti,” the organization said. “She will be remembered as a dreamer that dared to create new opportunities for Arab youth across the region. To date, the organization she created has affected over 2,000,000 youth.”
Jumana was a top-level executive with PricewaterhouseCoopers in the United Arab Emirates, leading the Education and not-for-profit consulting practice. She worked on various education and labour reform programs in the MENA region. I had the privilege of working with Jumana for over four years. She was a star consultant, a passionate promoter for better education, and an amazing team player. I learnt a lot from her.
In memory of the two sisters, a well-known Jordanian blogger, Naseem Tarawneh, chose a quote that I think captured how we all feel about Soraya and Jumana: “Say not in grief that she is no more, but say in thankfulness that she was”.
They will always be with us, they will always inspire us, and we will continue the work they left unfinished. May they both rest in peace.
A version of the article first appeared in the World Economic Forum’s website.