Representing the region!

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.

Manal AlDowayan – Saudi Arabia


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The Saudi artists is among the women highlighted by BBC. Her art wok explores invisibility, archives, memory and the representation of women in the Kingdom. Moreover, in 2018, the British Museum added two of Manal’s work to the long-term display in the Islamic Gallery.

Farida Osman – Egypt


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The Egyptian athlete has made a name for herself as one of the best professional swimmers in the region. 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 – Kuwait


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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.

Marwa Al-Sabouni – Syria


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When war broke out in Syria, architect Marwa refused to leave her home city of Homs. Staying was her inspiration for The Battle for Home, which documented her experience and included plans to rebuild the destroyed Baba Amr district. She also runs the world’s only Arab website dedicated to architectural news and was awarded the Prince Claus award, honouring “outstanding achievement of visionaries at the front-line of culture and development”.

Rida Al Tubuly – Libya

Rida is an activist and peace campaigner, fighting for gender equality from Libya. She formed an organisation called Together We Build It, which pushes for women’s involvement in solving Libya’s conflict.

Ayah Bdeir – Lebanon


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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.

Rana El Kaliouby – Egypt


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Rana is considered a pioneer of artificial emotional intelligence. She founded a start-up, Affectiva which developed software that can understand emotions by analysing facial expressions through a camera. Now, this technology is being used in cars to detect sleepy drivers.

Najat Saliba – Lebanon


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After watching family and friend develop health complications due to the state of the environment in Lebanon,Professor Najar decided to conduct a world-leading research on polluted air.

Raja Meziane – Algeria


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The Algerian singer is known for her political music, which tackles issues like social injustice, alleged corruption and inequality. The artists is now based in Prague, but was a vocal supporter of the protests in Algeria in 2019, which saw tens of thousands of young people taking to the streets calling for change.

Hayfa Sdiri – Tunisia


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When she was just 16-years-old Hayfa founded Entrcrush, a not-for-profit online platform for future entrepreneurs where they could be matched with donors, and take e-courses in areas like management and accounting. Now, she works with the United Nations in Tunisia collaborating on gender equality initiatives.

Noor Shaker – Syria

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.

Samah Subay – Yemen

Samah is a lawyer who has been providing legal support to families since the war in Yemen started in 2015. She works to reunite families with their children who have disappeared, and her team at Mwatana for Human Rights managed to reunite some of these families.

Dayna Ash – Lebanon


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Dayna is a cultural activist and poet working towards inclusivity. She also founded Haven for Artists, an all-inclusive organisation for artists and activists.

Gada Kadoda – Sudan

The Sudanese engineer helps bring electricity to women in remote areas by using solar power and training them as community engineers. She was named a Unicef innovator to watch as the driving force behind Sudan’s first innovation lab, giving students a space for collaborative working and problem-solving.

Ahlam Khudr – Sudan

Ahlam’s 17-year-old son was killed during a protest in 2013. Ever since then, the Sudanese has dedicated her life to seeking justice for him, and fighting for the rights of those killed or ‘disappeared’ in Sudan. She has even self-proclaimed herself as the ‘mother of all Sudanese martyrs.’

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Images: Instagram, Twitter, lead image: Ayah Bdeir