In a region wracked by wars and where dismal statistics paint a bleak near-term future, Zainab Salbi has set out with a plan to build the seeds of hope for Arab women by bringing their stories to light.
"Working and living in wars showed me that in war we see the worst of humanity, but we also see the best of humanity through the act of goodness by strangers," Salbi, whose talk show " Nida'a " launched last month on OSN's TLC channel, told StepFeed.
"Hope is always there. We just have to nourish and see it, be it in the smile of a child, in a good act by a stranger, or in a blossoming flower. There is always a way to show hope even if it is fragile. That is my intention in the Nida’a Show."
The Iraqi social entrepreneur, who is a published author, women's right activist and media commentator, has stepped down from the NGO she founded with her ex-husband, Women for Women International, to host a 10-part series targeting Arab women.
The Nida’a Show's "goal is to acknowledge Arab women and all of their contributions, to show the possibilities of change from within Arab culture, and to promote building small bridges and dialogues between Arab women," she said. "As I launch the first season, I feel I have encountered a love story in the Arab world of beautiful women and men’s voices that we need to see and hear as well as the world."
While she has her work cut out for her bringing these stories to light, Salbi has a history of success in the face of adversity. After more than a decade of running Women for Women, in 2005 Zainab published "Between Two Worlds Escape from Tyranny: Growing up in the Shadow of Saddam", detailing her experiences of abuse growing up as the daughter of Saddam's personal pilot.
"The Nida'a Show" follows naturally from the previous work Salbi has carried out to improve the lives of women caught up in war.
"My mother was the person who taught me to pay attention to women’s rights and women’s issues since I was a child. She made me read various books from women’s rights to anti slavery movement in America, so much so that by the age of 15, I knew I was going to dedicate all my life to helping women and anybody with a marginalized voice," Salbi said. "I stay in my commitment to women’s rights as I found myself in America, as I worked in war zones and as I come back to my home region the Middle East."
One of the most challenging tasks that Salbi faces on her talk show is balancing the harsh reality of life for many women in the Middle East with her goal of bringing hope into their lives.
"I tackle all issues at the Nida’a Show. Some are indeed serious as in women who have survived Daesh enslavement and dared to speak honestly about all that they have encountered. But we equally talk and celebrate filmmakers, Arab women designers, people who created initiatives that contributed positively to their societies," she said.
"The goal is to reflect a positive mirror back to the Arab world about all the good that is happening in our world by our people."
With a star-studded lineup of guests already announced, including Mohammed Assaf, Bill Clinton and Zaha Hadid, Salbi looks to have a serious platform to reach out to Arab women, and hopefully inspire them to even greater heights.
"I think the secret sauce that creates change in women’s lives is inspiration," she said. "All one can do is to feature the voices of the young women, celebrate them, and show them that they are not alone, that they are heard, and they are loved, and that there is hope indeed and they hold that light for hope. They just have to keep on speaking and keep on showing up. I believe in the possibilities of change and I believe every woman can fulfill her full potential."
Catch Salbi on "Nida'a" Saturdays at 21:50 (KSA) on OSN's TLC Arabia.