In this series of exclusive interviews, Emirates Woman talks to the three incredible female figures that star in Estée Lauder’s “Together We Shine” campaign: Fatima Al-Banawi, Sofana Dahlan and Sara Al Tamimi.

Female empowerment in the Middle East has seen some massive shifts in the past few years. Women across the region are exceptionally thriving in a male-dominated industry. To further anchor this movement, Estée Lauder’s launches the “Together We Shine” campaign to celebrate Middle Eastern women, who just like Estee Lauder herself have had a great impact on the local community and environment. Following the successful “Reach For The Stars campaign, Estée Lauder aims to put a spotlight on pioneering entrepreneurs, philanthropists and others whose hard work has resonated and made a measurable impact.

Here, Sofana Dahlan shares how she’s made her mark as the first female lawyer in Saudi Arabia and the initiatives she continues to drive women empowerment in the legal industry.


How does it feel to be a part of Estée Lauder’s “Together We Shine” campaign?

When I was first approached by Estée Lauder, I felt that the engagement was very far from my career pathway, my legal profession. However, when I learned more about the vision of the campaign, I realised how it aligned with my personal beliefs that you can be fierce, resilient, strong and professional in your career whilst celebrating who you are as a woman with all your multi-faceted dimensions as a mother, daughter, sister and more.

You are the first female lawyer in Saudi. Tell us an advice that kickstarted your career.

The advice that turned out to be a key driver for my career was resilience. You don’t need to surrender to the status quo – all you need to have is a vision since the world does not remain stagnant.

What has been the most pivotal moment of your career so far?

There is not one defining moment in my career. I’ve had many, starting with studying law when women were not permitted to pursue the subject for undergraduate or postgraduate studies in Saudi Arabia and receiving my license to practice law in Saudi Arabia in 2013 after years of tribulations and struggles. Then being appointed as the Vice Governor of Entrepreneurship Advancement at Monshaat (first female senior economic policymaker). Recently, I’ve developed a legal marketplace called Mustanad which will be launching soon. Mustanad aims to serve as a one-stop solution for professional legal documents and templates in Arabic provided by licensed lawyers and law firms.

How do you think women are changing the legal industry and how is this positively impacting the future?

Currently, the sky is the limit for women in Saudi Arabia, especially when it comes to the legal sector. Under the Ministry of Justice’s guidance, the industry has undergone a rapid transformation and enhanced massively for women. In terms of gender equality, the Ministry has given special attention to employing women in the legal sector, as it has opened positions for women to be a part of the Public Prosecution and Public Notary for the first time. It has allowed women to hold this title and position under the Ministry as government employees and has officially addressed them as ‘Partners in Bringing Justice’.

What are the initiatives you are driving to promote to lift other women up?

I mentor young female lawyers and entrepreneurs, volunteer with several women’s organisations, provide pro-bono services to women who cannot afford legal protection or legal services, and participate in campaigns such as this one.

What do you think is needed to achieve true diversity and inclusion within the legal industry?

The Ministry of Justice continues to boost female presence in the industry by enrolling them in various senior positions at board level and involving them in different areas of judicial functions such as arbitration and mediation.

Where do you find optimism in the most challenging times – how do you raise yourself up?

I allow myself to experience my vulnerability and I also try to remember that everything shall pass and derive strength from the fact that God is always by my side.

Who is your mentor and what piece of advice have they handed down to you?

Everybody I meet is a mentor to me. Irrespective of their age or profession there is always something to learn from people you meet regardless of what walks of life they belong to.

Tell us your favourite Ramadan traditions that you’re most looking forward to.

My mother’s Ramadan decorations, family gatherings during Iftar and praying with the family.

On self-care: Can you share with us your rituals that renew your spirits during Ramadan?

I always start my Ramadan journal in which I take time to reflect on the past year, things that I have done right and things I’ve done wrong. I read the Quran and reflect on it, perform Umrah and visit Madina.

How do you make time for yourself after a long day?

Spending quality time with my parents and daughters, journaling, having a cold shower, lighting up my scented candles and reading a book with a good cup of tea.

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