Every 8th of March, the world may as well stop spinning. It’s the day of celebrating women. And thankfully, we’re not short of remarkable female figures to commemorate. Observed annually since its recognition by the UN in 1977, International Women’s Day exists as an opportunity to highlight the cultural, political, and socioeconomic impacts of women all around the planet—and everything in between. And of course, we don’t want to miss out on that tradition.
Afterall, the world has gotten comfortable downplaying the role women play in society. And we’re aiming for those days to come to an end. For that reason, we’ve compiled our very own list to spotlight some of the strong, powerful and brave women that inspire the region to be a better place.
43-year-old journalist and activist Tawwakol Karman can easily be labeled as one of the Arab World’s most inspiring figures. She is notably recognised for leading the “Women Journalists Without Chains” group, an organization that promotes freedom of opinion and expression which she co-founded in 2005. She also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.
From 2007 to 2010, she led many demonstrations and sit-ins in Tahrir Square, Sana’a, in front of government buildings. During the 2011 wave of protests that took place in Yemen, Tawakkol also organized several student rallies in her native country’s capital in protest against the long-standing rule of the now-deceased Saleh government.
Hend Sabry is no stranger to the region’s silver screen and in fact, the Tunisian actress has continuously been inspiring us for over two decades now. As the leading actress in Egyptian television drama Ayza Atgawez by starring as Ola, the 42-year-old icon is an undeniable staple name in the Arab World’s entertainment industry.
She is also known for her activism and engagement to fight against global issues. In 2010, she was appointed ambassador against hunger by the UN’s World Food Program making her one of the most powerful and compelling figures in the region.
Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi
Al Qasimi is an Emirati politician and the first women to hold a ministerial post in the United Arab Emirates. Her work at the Dubai Ports Authority (DPA) led His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Ports and Customs, to award her with the “Distinguished Government Employee Award” in 1999 and even appointed her as Chief Executive of Tejari, the first Middle Eastern business-to-business marketplace. She was also named Minister of Economic and Planning in 2000.
In 2015, Al Qasimi was 1st in the ranking of the Arab women’s most powerful members of government, according to Forbes magazine. In 2016, she was ranked 43rd most powerful woman in the world by the American Forbes magazine.
Reema Bandar Al Saud
Reema Bandar Al Saud is Saudi Arabia’s 11th Ambassador to the United States—and the first female diplomatic representative in the kingdom’s history. Inspiring more than one to follow in her steps, her advocacy for female empowerment has been more than just remarkable over the years and it’s needless to say that the appearance of her name in the list should come as no real surprise.
Does the Beirut-born really need an introduction. Carrying more than one cord to her rich ark as the 48-year-old actress, director and activist has pretty much done it all. From featuring at the very prestigious Cannes Festival to speaking out on her country’s struggles and fundamental issues, Labaki is a major figure in Lebanon’s modern history. Not many can claim to have an impact as big as hers. Looking at how fast her career is still moving; she’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Dr. Hayat Sindi
Dr. Hayat Sindi is a Saudi medical scientist and one of the first female members of the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia. Throughout her experienced career, she has raised awareness on the importance of involving women in science amongst, especially in Saudi Arabia and the Arab World. In 2010, she was awarded with the Mekkah Al Mukaramah prize for scientific innovation and appointed goodwill ambassador by UNESCO for her involvement in science education in 2012.
Iraqi-American Huda Kattan is quite literally the definition of ‘making it’. At the head of a multimillion dollar empire, her eponymous cosmetic brand has reached some daunting heights in the past few months to the point of being named top beauty brand of 2021 in Cosmetify’s latest ranking.
Embodying the entrepreneur spirit quite like no other, Kattan is inspiring thousands, to not say millions, on her road to glory — and we’re loving seeing it all happen in front of us.
Kawther Ben Hania
Kawther Ben Hania has a lot of firsts linked next to her name. The director is best known for her entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st and 93rd Academy Awards. Trailblazing in every sense of the word, she has been putting Tunisia on the map for almost a decade now and doesn’t seem like she’ll be stopping anytime soon.
Although it’s been quite a difficult year for the Egyptian actress, she has shown how resilient she can be in front of bigotry, ignorance and injustice. Her dynamic role in “Perfect Strangers” might have led to some controversy, but her response is one that we can all inspire ourselves from.
The Cairo-born has been a mainstay in the land of the pharaoh’s cinema industry as she played in more than one cult movie by now. Strong and cool-headed, Mona’s talents have traveled across borders which has made her one of the most sought-after actresses the Arab World has ever seen.
Although young, French-Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri is adamantly one of the current rising stars. Her latest appearance in Wes Anderson’s French Dispatch has put her talent under the world’s spotlight. From her humble beginnings to the A-list celebrity she has become, Khoudri’s career has finally taken off and is hopefully about to reach some vertiginous heights most of us could only dream of.
Illustration by Mona Elkateb (@cantarticulate)