Arab women dominated 2019

This year has been a roller-coaster, one that brought so much change to the region. From politics and sport, to the fashion and beauty industries, we have seen Arab women work their way to the top.

So lets take a look back at the accomplishments that Arab women achieved this year to remind ourselves that 2019 was actually groundbreaking, and will likely pave the way for many more advancements to come.

Nadine Labaki


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In 2019, the Lebanese director represented the region at every major and prestigious film award show. From the BAFTA’s to the Oscars, her and her groundbreaking film Capernaum, were nominated for Best Foreign Language film. To this day, the director is financially supporting the children from her film, as well as their families and future education.

Dorsaf Ganoiati


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Dorsaf Ganoiati is an International Tunisian football referee, who made history in 2019 by becoming the first Arab and African woman to referee a men’s first division match. The 33-year-old’s achievement will help more women from the region to break into the male-dominated field of football.

Dolores Shelleh


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Dubai-based mountaineer Dolores Shelleh had a lot to celebrate this year. She turned 29, marked Jordan independence day and become the first Arab woman to scale Mt. Everest from its toughest North Col terrain. It is one of most challenging and dangerous routes to take due to altitude issues, and it has the highest recorded fatality numbers due to the elevation of the camps and lack of helicopter rescue options.

Princess Reema Bint Bandar


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The appointment of Princess Reema Bint Bandar, as Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic representative to Washington DC was a historic moment for women in the Kingdom. This position made the Princess the first female ambassador in the country’s history.

Yasmeen Al Maimani


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Another historic moment for Saudi women was when Yasmeen Al Maimani made history as the country’s first female commercial pilot. Six years after obtaining her license from the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, she accomplished her dream of flying a plane in the Kingdom.

Hend Sabry


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During the festival season, Tunisian-Egyptian actress, Hend Sabry joined the prestigious jury panel of the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for a Debut Film, at the 76th Venice Film Festival. The award-winning actress appointment makes her the first female Arab filmmaker to fill this post.

Roula Khalaf


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For the first time in the publication’s history, the Financial Times will have a female editor-in-chief, Roula Khalaf.  The editor who was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon made history as the publication’s first female editor since it was founded in 1888.

Saudi women travel


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This year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has confirmed that women can now travel independently. Previously female family members were required to seek permission from a male guardian. Now thanks to a decree signed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, they can hold passports and explore the world freely.

Farida Osman


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This year, the Egyptian swimmer won numerous medals, representing Egypt on the global stage. She specialises in butterfly and freestyle events. She has broken several records throughout her career, holding the senior national records for all the butterfly, freestyle and backstroke events, as well as African records in the 50m and 100m butterfly. She is currently working towards winning a medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Alanoud Alsharekh


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Alanoud is a research and women’s rights activists, who founded the Abolish 153 campaign, calling for the end of Kuwait’s “honour-killing” law. Not only that, but she works with institutions to help improve gender equality in the Middle East. Furthermore, she was also the first Kuwaiti to receive France’s National Order of Merit, for her activism.

Ayah Bdeir


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Ayah is a Lebanese entrepreneur who founded littleBits, a company which makes kits of electronic blocks that snap together with magnets, allowing anyone to “build, prototype, and invent”. Her invention is now used in thousands of schools across the United States. Moreover, she launched a $4m value initiative with Disney in an effort to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, (STEM), supplying 15,000 10-year-old girls in California with free littleBits kits.

Amina Muaddi


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This past year was a big one for Jordanian-Romanian shoe designer Amina Muaddi. The creative behind exaggerated heels and dazzling boots has been winning fans all over the world, including Rihanna, the Hadid sisters and the Jenners. Moreover, she was recently hired by Riri to help design shoes for the Fenty collection.

Andrea Wazen


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It seems like 2019 has been a great year for shoe designers from the region, as Lebanon’s Andrea Wazen and her shoe label have had their moment in the lime light. From Katy Perry to Kylie Jenner to Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, the designer is quickly becoming a Hollywood favourite.

Princess Nourah bint Saad

The Saudi Princess became the first Saudi woman to be President of a sports club. She acquired the Italian football club, Umbrian football club Spoleto and outlined her ambitions for the team’s future saying: “Football is a family passion, and Italian football is followed all over the world. This is why I chose to invest in Umbria,” she said.

Noor Shaker

Noor is a computer scientist, who turned from academia to entrepreneurial innovation. After watching her mother’s fight against cancer, she was inspired to bring her skills in Artificial Intelligence to the medical world. This resulted in a ground-breaking technique, which uses AI to design new medicines faster than humans.

We can’t wait and see what women accomplish in 2020!

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