After StepFeed's previous list of 11 inspirational Arab women, we have received many requests to include more women from the Arab world who are changing the world and breaking out of the molds made for them to stay within. So, here are 11 more inspirational women whose work and activism we admire!
An Egyptian pediatrician, Dr. Mona Mina has an impressive history with activism to say the least. She was one of the founding members of the group Doctors Without Rights, which advocates for better wages and working conditions for doctors, as well as better public healthcare, and has actively participated in aiding protestors at the Egyptian demonstrations. She, along with fellow doctors, set up tents in Tahrir Square to treat injured protestors who would be arrested if they went to hospitals. She participated in demonstrations against the regime in Egypt, as well as ones against the war on Iraq. She was also the first woman to win the seat of secretary-general of the Doctors Syndicate, after she helped form the Independence List, which broke the monopoly that the Islamic Brotherhood had over the syndicate. She continues to hold conferences and lectures, shedding light on the struggles faced by doctors working in public hospitals. Mina says that, through her new position, she hopes to "call for the most important principles of the revolution: human dignity, and social justice.”
Loujain Al Hathloul is a women's rights activist from Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year, she was jailed for more than 70 days for trying to drive from the UAE into Saudi Arabia. She was even threatened with terrorism charges. She is now running for the Saudi council elections, as a show of defiance against the male monopoly on councils in KSA. Hathloul, with 1,000 other women, has the opportunity to run for elections under an order from late King Abdullah. While women may not speak directly with men in their campaigns, she remains hopeful about the modernization of Saudi Arabia when it comes to women's rights. On why she decided to run for elections, Hathloul said, "I’m not excited by the idea of winning, I’m focussed on increasing the number of women who stand in elections.”
3. Princess Rym of Jordan
An Algerian, a princess of Jordan, and born in Egypt, Princess Rym is a true daughter of the region. She studied journalism and worked for the United Nations Bureau of the BBC World Service, the United Press International and CNN, among others, working as a producer and correspondent from Baghdad until she was expelled from Iraq and went to Jordan for an interview with Prince Ali bin al Hussein about the conditions in Iraq. He later became her husband, making her a princess. However, that didn't hinder her work in the media, as she became the executive commissioner of the Royal Film Commission in Jordan and founded the Jordan Media Institute, through which she established an Arab Centre of Excellence for Journalism Education. She calls for journalism that is independent from governments, as it is the basis of a healthy society. She calls for Arabs to change their image in the media, saying in one of her conferences on the subject that Arabs are responsible for the image that is portrayed of them in the media, as she is "aware of the negative stereotypes portrayed in Hollywood, but also of the discrimination in covering Arabs or Arab affairs in some Western news outlets. It remains our duty to fight every word that is anti-Arab or discriminating against us."
Dr. Shukrallah is the first woman, and the first Coptic Christian, to become the president of a political party in Egypt. She is a sociologist and a political activist, and runs an NGO which aims to empower local communities. She has been jailed for her leftist politics three times, but remains resilient in her call for social justice, a repeal of the protest law, the promotion of civil liberties, and freedom for political prisoners. She is also a huge activist when it comes to human rights and the involvement of the military in Egypt's politics. But Shukrallah often says that the focus on her being a Copt or a woman was never of any concern to anyone involved in The Constitution, the political party which she was voted president of. According to her, the only time her being a woman or a Copt is ever mentioned is in the media, where she seemed revolutionary just because of that. Shukrallah thinks it is positive, but she would like for people to focus on what she has to say instead of who she is. According to her, “it sometimes blinds people to dealing with the content of what you’re saying. They’re looking outwards and blinded by that statement over and over again.”
5. Muna Al Gurg
Muna Al Gurg is an Emirati business woman and philanthropist. She is a graduate of the London Business School, and is in charge of the retail division of her family's Easa Saleh Al Gurg group. She was also on the board of the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Center. Gurg started the Al Gurg's Women's Empowerment Forum, and is a chairwoman of the Young Arab Leaders UAE, in which she serves as an advisor for young entrepreneurs. She has also received the Emirate's Women's Award and dedicates most of her time for working on education in impoverished areas of the world; she is a partner in Acumen Fund that tackles poverty in developing countries. One of her most notable projects is building a school in the village of Bwejuu in Tanzania, and making sure it offers what the country lacks in terms of education and scholarships. Gurg has also recently began a collaboration with the American University of Beirut to offer scholarships for young refugees from Syrian camps. "When I see that someone is on that scholarship and it’s going to make a huge difference in impacting the family when these people graduate, it’s really something that I enjoy doing,” she says.
6. Dora Bouchoucha
Dora Bouchoucha is a Tunisian film producer. She has produced more than 10 short and feature films, from fiction to documentary, and has been on the juries of several international film festivals such as Mons, Namur, Premiers Plan Angers, and Montpellier. She is also the head of Nomadis Images in Tunisia and was the head of Carthage Film Festival in 2008 and 2010. She founded the Carthage Film Festival Projects’ workshop as well as the SUD ECRITURE workshops, which she has been running since 1997. She actively trains filmmakers and promotes southern cinema, and has been a permanent member of the International Rotterdam Festival CineMart Board for more than 10 years. Bouchoucha was also in charge of selections of Arab and African films for Venice Film Festival from 2007 to 2011. Moreover, she is also the head of Fonds Sud and the president of CNC “Aide aux cinémas du Monde”. Bouchoucha often speaks up against censorship, saying "How can we create, innovate, astonish ... ? It should be pointed out that it is culturally difficult for us to bare all, and to deal with current issues without first going through a didactic discourse."
7. Abeer Abu Ghaith
Abeer Abu Ghaith is a Palestinian entrepreneur. She started StayLinked, an interface between Palestinian freelancers and businesses from all over the world. She is Palestine's first female high-tech entrepreneur. Coming from a very traditional family, she was told that she must follow the conventional way of life; get a husband, keep the house, and raise children. But Abu Ghaith decided to aim for a bigger life, not confined within the walls of a family home, and she pursued a career in STEM, which is incredibly hard for women in even better situations than herself. Her work has given her a platform from which she can promote the importance of the role of women in the workplace. According to her, "We have plenty of qualified women in my area who have no access to jobs. As a woman, I can help and change the world in my own way, even if the society wants to confine us in the kitchen and the house."
8. Dame Nemat Shafik (Minouche)
Dame Nemat Shafik, better known as Minouche, is the Egyptian-American-British deputy of the Bank of England. She was the youngest-ever vice president at the World Bank at 36 years old, and then became the permanent secretary of Britain's Department for International Development. She studied in the United States as an undergraduate, and then earned a masters degree from London School of Economics and later a doctorate in economics from Oxford University. Shafik also served as the deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, where she was responsible for the IMF's work in Europe and the Middle East and a $1 billion administrative budget. She has written, co-written and edited a number of books and articles discussing several economic topics. But she also is involved with a lot of charities, being on the board of the Economic Research Forum for the Arab World, Iran and Turkey, and a mentor to the Minority Ethnic Talent Association that aids minorities or underrepresented groups in advancing to senior positions in civil service. She is also involved with the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme, and the Global Water and Sanitation Program, and was a big part in launching the Africa Infrastructure Consortium.
9. Fatima Mernissi
Fatima Mernissi is a Moroccan author and sociologist. She studied political science at the Sorbonne and at Brandeis University, earning a doctorate. She has published more than 15 books, writing about women in changing Muslim communities.She identifies as an Islamic feminist and is a campaigner for women’s rights. Her work about women and Islam, specifically "Beyond the Veil," is incredibly significant, with her books becoming classics in the fields of anthropology and sociology. She has done sociological research for UNESCO, ILO, and the U.N. Population Fund. Through her sociological work, she has traced attitudes in Morocco that have to do with women and work. Growing up, Mernissi spent the majority of her childhood in the harems of her home, and that deeply affected her writings, which was incredibly obvious through her memoir "Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood. In her work, she often compares Western and Eastern views on topics that have to do with women, stripping conceptions and laying them bare, calling for a free and open discussion about women and tradition, hoping to build a society that is more accepting of what is right rather than what is traditionally accepted.
10. Amira Yahyaoui
Amira Yahyaoui is a Tunisian journalist, blogger, and human rights activist. Her father was a judge who was dismissed after he wrote about the lack of justice in Tunisia. Her cousin was tortured and killed by the government after starting a satirical website objecting to censorship in Tunisia. She was forced to flee to France, where she studied, after being beaten by police when she was still a teenager. Yahyaoui became stateless during the rule of President Ben Ali for four years and was only allowed back after the fall of his government. After returning, she became an independent youth candidate in Tunisia’s first free election and started the NGO Al Bawsala. Al Bawsala monitors the constitutional assembly and advocates for human rights, especially freedom of speech, which she also hoped to protect through launching the Tunisian Parliament Monitor. As she says, “We must create order, we must become responsible.”
11. Muna AbuSulayman
Muna AbuSulayman is a Saudi media personality. She is one of the co-hosts of MBC's "Kalam Nawaem," and is the former founding secretary-general of the Alwaleed Bin Talal foundation. She is a global ambassador of Silatech, and has her own line of clothing and fashion accessories. AbuSulayman is the first woman from Saudi Arabia to be appointed by the UNDP as a goodwill ambassador, which gave her the opportunity to work on several developmental projects and speak about issues related to societies in the region. She focuses on the media and building bridges between the East and West, as well as health causes, such as the Tetanus Shot Campaign in Yemen. She is also a writer, and is on the advisory board of the Muslim Women's Fund which aims to empower Muslim women. In her own words, "When you change women’s conditions and empower them, you change the whole family."