Despite an array of ongoing struggles and forms of oppression, Arab women have achieved several milestones in the battle against the patriarchy.

There's no doubt women in the Arab region face a slew of societal and legislative challenges, but it seems as though we are on the right track in our fight for gender equality. 

This is thanks to the women who, each in her own field of expertise, took it upon themselves to challenge the status quo and blaze a trail for Arab women to follow.

As we celebrate the 2019 International Women's Day (March 8th), we pay tribute to eight Arab women who made history and paved the way for women in the region:

1. Egyptian pilot Lotfia El Nadi

Source: Wikipedia

As the first Arab and African woman to ever earn a pilot's license, Lotfia El Nadi is an inspiration for female pilots around the world.

Back in 1933, El Nadi flew a plane from Cairo to Alexandria, becoming the youngest woman to fly at the time. She had overcome her family's objections and refusal to fund her education, working as a receptionist at Cairo Airport to pay for her flying lessons. 

After working as a pilot for five years, El Nadi's career was cut short and she was forced to retire due to a spinal injury.

2. Moroccan Olympian Nawal Al Moutawakel

Source: Wikimedia

Upon winning the first ever women's 400-meter hurdles event in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Nawal Al Moutawakel became not only the first Moroccan athlete, but the first Arab, Muslim, and African woman to win a gold Olympic medal.

Her historic achievement was a leap forward for women in Morocco and the Arab world, where female participation in sports was still uncommon.

Following her achievement, Al Moutawakel committed herself to empowering women and fighting for equality between men and women in sports, occupying major executive positions in the sports world.

3. Yemeni journalist and activist Tawwakkol Karman

Source: Wikimedia

The Yemeni journalist, politician, and human rights activist made history in 2011 as the first Arab woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

As a 32-year-old winner, she was also the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate ever at the time.

Karman received the award in recognition of her work in "nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work in Yemen."

She notably donated the $500,000 she had received from the Nobel Prize to those wounded during Yemen's uprising and to the families of people killed.

4. Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid

Described by The Guardian as the "queen of the curve," Zaha Hadid was one of the most influential and prominent architects in modern history.

She became the first woman ever to receive the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. She went on to receive the Stirling Prize, one of the world's most prestigious architecture prizes, in 2010 and 2011.

Hadid died in 2016, leaving behind an impressive and inspirational legacy.

5. Palestinian mountaineer Suzane Al Houby

Source: Taghrib News

UAE-based Suzanne Al Houby made history in 2011 when she became the first Arab woman to climb Mount Everest during a 51-day journey. Additionally, she is the first to complete the Seven Summits Challenge

"I would like to share this triumph with the Palestinian people and all Arabs - especially all the Arab women, young and old, who continue to contribute to the peace and stability of the region we all call home," she said at the time.

That's not all. She is also the founder and CEO of Rahhalah, a travel agency in Dubai.

6. Jordanian wrestler Shadia Bseiso

As a Jordanian TV presenter, jiu-jitsu practitioner, and professional wrestler, Shadia Bseiso is a force to be reckoned with. 

In October 2017, Bseiso became the first Arab female wrestler from the Middle East to sign a contract with WWE, the world's largest wrestling promotion company.

"It is a honour but also a big responsibility because you want the region to be proud," she told The National at the time.

She has a bachelor's degree in business administration from the American University of Beirut and began her career as a TV presenter and voice-over artist for a Dubai-based media group. 

7. Emirati politician Dr. Amal Al-Qubaisi

In 2015, Dr. Amal Al-Qubaisi became the first Arab woman to head a national assembly when she was appointed President of the Federal National Council, the advisory and law-drafting body of the UAE.

In addition to her political career, she is a former architect and former professor of architecture at the UAE University, from which she graduated. As an architect, Qubaisi worked with UNESCO on the documentation and preservation of some of the UAE's most significant heritage sites.

8. Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki

The Lebanese filmmaker made international headlines on multiple occasions in the past year following the release of her film Capharnaüm.

In May 2018, Labaki won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Arab woman to pick up a major prize at the prestigious festival.

In December, she made history as the first female Lebanese filmmaker ever to be nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, according to The National.

The film - which is Arabic for "a disorderly accumulation of objects" - tells the story of a child who is struggling to survive and sues his family "for giving him life in the first place."