HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE
She was the first ever Arab woman to hold a ministerial position in her country when she assumed the role of Minister of Economic & Planning in UAE. She is a family member of the ruling royal family of Sharjah in the UAE. She has also held other portfolios in the UAE government like Minister of State for International Cooperation and currently, she is the Minister of State for Tolerance in the UAE. She was named the 43rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2016.
Madiha Al-Birmani, Iraq
When she was young, she had to study in a boy’s high school where the ratio of girls to boys was way too less. She studied medicine in Britain and then moved to Scandinavia. She is now an Iraqi émigré who has donated millions from her personal savings to open a girls’ school in her homeland in the Iraqi province of Hilla, Babel. She has kept on donating her savings to educate and empower the future generations of Iraqi girls to become what they want to be. The school she has built is a state-of-the-art building with touch-smart whiteboards, high-end laboratories and top-notch education which is bound to help Iraqi girls conquer newer heights.
Sarah Toumi, Tunisia
Sara Sarah Toumi is a Tunisian entrepreneur, who has worked tediously on reversing the effects of desertification in her home country. She left a high-profile life in Paris to serve her home village Bir Al Salih. She founded the NGO Dream in Tunisia which helps teach the village women handicrafts and helps them promote and sell their products. She also founded Acacias for All in Tunisia to fight the land’s rapid desertification with sustainable agriculture techniques, like planting acacia trees. Toumi was selected as one of the “30 under 30” Social Entrepreneurs Making Change in Europe and around the World in 2016. She was also one of the 30 winners of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise in 2016, which was the first ever award for Tunisia in any field.
Tawakkol Karman, Yemen
She is a Yemeni journalist, politician, and human rights activist who co-founded the group “Women Journalists Without Chains,” in 2005. She is now the international public face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising and is dubbed the “Iron Woman” and “Mother of the Revolution” by Yemenis. She is a co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize (sharing the award with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee). The Nobel made her the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize and the second-youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date!
Hayat Sindi, Saudi Arabia
She is a medical scientist who is the first ever Saudi Muslim woman in the Middle East to get a Ph.D. in biotechnology. She is the co-founder of an NGO called ‘Diagnostics For All’ which provides medical care in remote impoverished areas of RSA. She was also one of the first female members of the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia and has been appointed as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador due to her groundbreaking work in promoting education, specifically for girls in the Middle East.
Ahlam Mosteghanemi, Algeria
She has been called “the world’s best-known arabophone woman novelist” and had published over 10 books from novels to anthologies. She is the only female Algerian author whose Arabic writings have been published in English. She has been recognized by Forbes as the most successful Arab writer and her first novel, “Memory of the Flesh,” is considered a turning point in Arabic literature. Her novels have been adopted in the curricula of several universities and high schools worldwide and UNESCO has printed all her work in Braille for blind readers.
As you can see, Muslim women do have it in them to make it big; they just need a push in the right direction! If you are a Muslim, please let your women shine! Yes, there are still many gender barriers that these women need to break, but if you look at the entrepreneurs, leaders, activists, educators, Nobel Prize winners mentioned above, you can understand that a society can be reshaped only if there is gender equality and girl empowerment from this instance.
The time is now to help these women redefine their world and voice their muffled opinions with a loud roar. They can show Donald Trump that Muslims are here to stay and that his executive order banning immigrants from Syria and seven other predominantly Muslim countries was something that was really derogatory. Muslim women can be anything they want to be – it is up to us to help them shatter these damaging stereotypes against Muslims and Muslim women! Help the Muslima around you and see this world prosper!
The world needs more talented girls like the ones mentioned above!