For Arab women, developing the idea of a feminist consciousness goes as far back as the 19th century. Since then, numerous Arab female authors, activists, politicians, and lawyers have been advocating for feminism and equal gender relations.
They have embraced the female role in Middle Eastern and North African societies, in addition to supporting women's struggles throughout political and economic turmoils in the region.
Here are 10 of the most powerful quotes said by prominent Arab feminists to make you feel empowered.
1. Nabawiyya Musa (Egypt: 1886 -1951)
Musa is one of Egypt's founding feminism icons. She was the first Egyptian woman to have a high school education. Musa, along with Huda Al-Shaarawy and Malak Hefni Nasif, is considered to be one of the founders of the Egyptian women's rights movement.
Musa wrote in her autobiography:
"I preferred to live as the master of men, not their servant."
2. Nawal Elsaadawi (Egypt)
Egypt's Elsaadawi is famous for her timeless wisdom. She is one of the country's modern literary icons in feminism. In her 1975's novel Woman at Point Zero, she expresses the societal pressure and subjugation a woman undergoes in Egypt.
"She is free to do what she wants, and free not to do it." — Nawal Elsaadawi, Woman at Point Zero
3. Joumana Haddad (Lebanon)
Haddad is an award-winning Lebanese poet, journalist and women rights activist. She is the founder of the Beirut-based cultural magazine Jasad (body).
"As for the errors I make, the only punishment I acknowledge for having made them is my awareness of those errors, and having to live with it: there is, there should be, no heavier penalty on a person's soul, mind, and heart." — Joumana Haddad
4. Zainab Salbi (Iraq)
"Like life, peace begins with women. We are the first to forge lines of alliance and collaboration across conflict divides." — Zainab Salbi
Salbi is an Iraqi author, public speaker, and founder of Women for Women International, a Washington-based non-profit humanitarian organization that provides support to female survivors of war and conflicts.
5. Mohja Kahf (Syria)
Kahf is a Syrian-American scholar, poet, and author who is widely celebrated for her portraits of Arab women and identity struggles in the west.
"All women speak two languages: the language of men and the language of silent suffering. Some women speak a third, the language of queens." — Mohja Kahf from the poetry collection, E-mails from Scheherazad
6. Manal Al-Sharif (Saudi Arabia)
"How beautiful it is to live in a world with no walls." ― Manal Al-Sharif, Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening
Known best for her activism in Saudi women's right to drive back in 2011, Al-Sharif also remains active on political and women's rights in Saudi Arabia.
7. Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)
"All novels are autobiographic, there is always a part of yourself on the factual level. You find all the 'crumbs' of my life in the novel [Tiller of Waters]." - Hoda Barakat during an interview with Al-Jadid.
Barakat's writings are heavily influenced by her time in Beirut. Her work often depicts different aspects of the Lebanese civil war. Her novel, The Stone of Laughter, delivered a powerful representation of war and its trauma, and queer fiction.
8. Sahar Khalifeh (Palestine)
"I'm confused and I can't really define my own position. Peace, brotherhood - hopes of idiots and dreams of birds. Maybe, I don't know. Yet I still dream. I dream of the impossible. But I ask you. Is it possible to grow roses from thorns?" Sahar Khalifeh - Wild Thorns
Khalifeh is a prominent Palestinian novelist. She was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2006 for her novel The Image, the Icon, and the Covenant.
9. Fatema Mernissi (Morocco: 1940-2015)
"Happiness, she would explain, was when a person felt good, light, creative, content, loving and loved, and free. An unhappy person felt as if there were barriers crushing her desires and the talents she had inside. A happy woman was one who could exercise all kinds of rights, from the right to move to the right to create, compete, and challenge, and at the same time could be loved for doing so." -Fatema Mernissi, Dreams Of Trespass: Tales Of A Harem Girlhood
Mernissi was a pioneering Moroccan sociologist and feminist writer. She is considered one of the founders of Islamic feminism.
10. Mona Eltahawy (Egypt)
"The battles over women's bodies can be won only by a revolution of the mind." — Mona Eltahawy Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution
Eltahawy is a New York-based Egyptian-American author, freelance journalist, and commentator. She is widely recognized for her fearless attitude and outspoken views on Arab and Muslim issues.