The Most Influential Arab Women of the Decade
The 2010s are drawing to a close and we at AboutHer.com are celebrating the greatest Arab female voices of the decade. These influential Arab women have carved their own success, and paved a way of possibilities for other Arab women, and generations to come. The past decade has been instrumental to the lives of women in the Middle East, which have proven that anything is possible. We have rounded up a list of female powerhouses that have positively impacted their respective communities, regionally and/or internationally. Be sure to check out Abouther’s Leading Ladies section for other awesome trailblazers.
Where to start? This brilliant woman is the embodiment of empathy, authenticity, and talent. Nadine Labaki reached a career peak when she was the first Arab woman to be nominated for an Oscar in 2019, for her groundbreaking humanitarian film Capharnaum. The Lebanese director and screenwriter captured the heartfelt journey of Zain, a 12-year-old boy struggling to make a place in this world. Labaki’s film was also featured in The Guardian’s list as The 100 Best Films Of The 21st Century. Her prominent filmography includes Caramel (2007) and Where Do We Go Now (2011); two powerful films putting Lebanese women at the forefront.
Amal Alamuddin Clooney
An exemplary human rights’ lawyer, the British-Lebanese woman represented high-profile cases, and has pushed for the release of imprisoned journalists and Yazidi women abused under ISIS. Her 2014 marriage to George Clooney multiplied her media appearances: her legal prowess is often tied to her connection to the Hollywood actor and humanitarian. The pair joined forces with their own Clooney Foundation For Justice, which advocates for justice through accountability for human rights abuses around the world.
Haifa Al Mansour
An empowering voice for women in the Kingdom, Haifa Al Mansour is the first Saudi woman filmmaker spreading her talent nationwide, and abroad. Death threats, public heckling, and controversies restricted her career. Obstacles didn’t stop Al Mansour of becoming a powerful Arab influencer with the mission of changing the way the world sees Saudi women. Her compelling first feature film “Wadjda” was the KSA’s first submission to the 2014 Oscars, under the category of Best Foreign Language Oscar.
Huda Al Kattan
The self-made Iraqi-American entrepreneur started off as a beauty blogger before building her billion-dollar cosmetics empire. Aside from her incomparable beauty expertise, Huda Kattan’s genuine character is the main ingredient of her success. Kattan’s contagiously positive energy is undeniable and especially around her fans. The businesswoman always connects with her audience with her openness, charisma, and Arab identity.
This Saudi woman’s success literally reached the stars! Mishaal Ashemimry is the first to join the NASA and is the CEO of her own company Mishaal Aerospace. The engineer’s job consists of sending satellites into orbit using cost-effective space access vehicles (no big deal!). Her title of GCC’s first female aerospace engineer continuously inspires young Arab women to join her field and STEM programs. Check out her awesome inter-galactic life through her Instagram page.
It’s no surprise that this journalistic force won the prestigious Pulitzer award for International reporting in 2019. Nariman El Mofty is an Egyptian journalist that has covered parts of Egypt, Yemen, and other Arab countries. The photojournalist stood out with her profound documentation of Yemeni women struggling to live in a collapsing society. The Magnum Foundation fellow humanely captured the state of her subjects by integrating in the Yemeni society and interacting with the women.
Roula Khalaf has just been appointed Editor of the Financial Times in 2019. The British-Lebanese journalist is actually the first ever female editor, a position that was male-dominated for the past 140 years. Khalaf first started working for the noteworthy publication in 1995 as a Middle East correspondent and climbed up her way to become who she is today. The Financial Times’ proprietor, Chairman of Nikkei, Tsuneo Kita, spoke highly of Roula and said about her new role: “her integrity, determination and sound judgment. I have full confidence that she will continue the FT’s mission to deliver quality journalism without fear and without favor.”
Mona Al Thawy
A prominent women’s rights advocate, Mona Al Thawy shed light on taboo issues with her provoking first book in 2015 titled “Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution”. The Egyptian-American journalist freelances for notable publications such as the Washington Post, The New York Times, the Miami Herald, etc. Al Thawy is the activist that spearheaded the #MosqueMeToo movement encouraging Muslim women to share sexual abuse experienced during pilgrimages. El Thawy has also spoken publicly at talk shows, universities, panels and multicultural gatherings on reform in the Islamic world, feminism and Egyptian Muslim–Christian, and other human rights issues.
This young Palestinian voice grabbed the public’s attention in 2017 when she was jailed for her fearless confrontations with Israeli soldiers. The viral video of Ahed Tamimi slapping a soldier raised an important international debate on the Palestinian cause. Often compared to Malala Yousafzai, this freedom fighter - who was still a minor at the time- became a new symbol of Palestinian resistance against military occupation.
Tamadur El Ramah
Dr. Tamadur El Ramah is a pioneering voice in both the political and humanitarian fields. After becoming the first Saudi woman to be appointed the title of Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Development in 2018, she earned a spot in the UN committee of Convention on Elimination of all kinds of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It’s incredible voices like El Ramah that are a solid proof that Saudi women have been capable of anything during this decade.