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#IWD2021: Remarkable Arab Women to Celebrate This Year

Hailing from the Arab world, here are some inspiring female trailblazers shattering stereotypes and building a better tomorrow!

Happy international women's day! With all the burdens 2020 and 2021 carry, Arab women continue to strive under the pressures of the pandemic and male-dominated environments. Standing as a repertoire of all-things women empowerment in the Arab world, looked to highlight some of the female voices from the region that shined on despite unnerving challenges. Building on a collaborative effort, we hope to receive your own suggestions of Arab women that have marked your lives during these trying times. Click through to meet leading Arab ladies from all across industries in the MENA region. Women support women!

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Ilwad Elman

Ilwad Elman is a 29-year-old Somali who grew up in Canada and returned to her home country in 2010 to co-found the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in the capital city of Mogadishu. In 2020, the Arab activist nabbed the prestigious German Africa Prize for her groundbreaking techniques and compassionate efforts, just a few years after being voted the African Young Personality of the Year in 2016, awarded the 2016 Right the Wrongs Award from Oxfam America, and honored with the 2015 Gleitsman International Activist Award from Harvard University.

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Dr. Safaa Kumari

Plant virologist Dr. Safaa Kumari is renowned for her breakthrough research on crop infection and named one of BBC's 100 Women in 2020. Dr. Kumari has worked for many years on climate-fueled virus epidemics, specifically on protecting global crops from devastating diseases, and her journey as a world-recognized scientist began in northern Syria.
Born and raised in Aleppo, Kumari originally set her sights on becoming a doctor, but her grades would instead determine a different career path for her. By 1985, she graduated from faculty in agriculture, and would find herself working full-time for International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), a non-profit organization offering science-based solutions for arid regions worldwide.

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Norah Alamri

Norah Alamri is a 29-year-old photographer based in Riyadh and is known for photographs that are heavily inspired by the culture and human differences in Saudi Arabia. As a photographer standing outside and looking into people’s lives, Alamri is providing us outsiders a real insider’s perspective on life in Saudi Arabia and breaking down negative perceptions of the country by showing its other angles. We can't wait to see what 2021 has in store for the Saudi creative!

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Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmadi

Assistant President of the Shoura Council Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmadi Al-Ahmadi wrote history as the she became the first Saudi woman to chair a session at the Shura Council. Hanan Al Ahmadi is an Associate Professor of Health Administration at the Institute of Public Administration in Saudi Arabia, and a member of the Kingdom’s Shura Council. Al Ahmadi worked on recommendations such as the alimony fund for women and their children, the establishment of an executive body handling domestic violence cases, and many more.

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Tara Khattar

The highly talented Lebanese-born chef Tara Khattar trains in French cuisine and creates accessible dishes with sophisticated techniques. Chef Tara Khattar’s passion for food and attention to pleasure-driven detail have helped her accelerate her career on a global scale. Her talent has landed her experiences in the kitchens of Michelin starred chefs such as Joël Robuchon and Jacques Chibois, who shaped her to become a self-employed Caterer and Food Consultant by the young age of 28. We wish the best to Khattar who aims to become the Martha Stewart of her generation!

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Hanine Abu Mariam

Shattering all gendered stereotypes, Hanine Abu Mariam, stands out with a Palestinian flag on her sleeve in the field. Abu Mariam refeers men's football match in the city of Al-Ram in occupied Westbank between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The 21-year-old discovered her passion in University and after graduating, she nabbed her dream job and became one of only two women to referee matches in the top Palestinian women’s league and the men’s third division. She works about seven matches per month at $30 each, the same fee as her male counterparts. We hope that one day will hold Palestine's name high in international stadiums!

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Toni Breidinger

Toni Breidinger, who is of Lebanese descent, is the first Arab American woman to take part in any NASCAR national series, according to the American auto racing sanctioning and operating company that is best known for stock car racing.

The 21-year-old race car driver made her debut in the 2021 stock car competition ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, which began with the Lucas Oil 200 at the historic Daytona International Speedway in Florida on Saturday. Breidinger, a California native, finished in the 18th spot and survived a multi-car accident on lap 29 of the race, which went into overtime. The young and feisty brunette drove a Chevrolet SS car for the ARCA Menards race and a Chevrolet Silverado for the Camping World Truck series. 

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Sarah Al Amiri

Young Emirati engineer, Sarah al-Amiri, caught the world's attention when she lead the country's efforts into space with the Hope Probe mission to Mars. "We're a new country that is late to the competition in the global perspective," al-Amiri told the British scientific journal Nature earlier this month. "It's natural for people to think this was crazy," she added, referring to the UAE's Mars mission, which launched July 20. Al-Amiri kicked off her career as a computer engineer and then moved to the field of space technology at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology, where she worked on the UAE's first satellites.

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Mashael Al Obaidan

From a young age, Mashael Al Obaidan has been racing with buggies, dirt racing, and motorcycles between the deserts of Saudi Arabia and Utah, United States. After years of racing, she eventually obtained her USA Motorcycle driver’s license and became a licensed rally racer in Saudi Arabia. She is now one of the Saudi women taking part in the kingdom’s Dakar Rally women’s team "Shero", which was formed this year and will compete next year.

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Dr. Nouf Abdul Aziz Al-Anazi

Dr. Nouf Abdul Aziz Al-Anazi was recently appointed as director of the King Fahd Cardiac Center (KFCC) at the King Saud University Medical City (KSUMC). Al-Anazi is a top national cardiologist and the first Saudi female doctor to lead a heart disease center. She was also the head of the quality unit at the KFCC and director of the interventional cardiology program at KSUMC at King Saud University. Currently, Al-Anazi is also an assistant professor and consultant of interventional cardiology. 

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Shihana Alazzaz

Shihana Alazzaz is the general counsel and Secretary-General to the board at the Public Investment Fund (PIF). She recently stood out as the woman sitting across Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman at a defining meeting that took place in the Kingdom on the 24th of January 2021. One of the first female lawyers in the Kingdom, Alazzaz nabbed the International Financial Law Review’s 2019 Women in Business Law award. The Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 boosted women's participation into particular industries and career paths that were previously closed off to them. The Saudi female trailblazer's path is one of many success stories from Saudi Arabia!

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Samira Merai

Samira Merai, a Tunisian lung specialist and former health and women’s affairs minister, is the head of the pulmonary diseases department at the Rabta hospital in Tunis. Dr. Merai stands out as a strong advocate for the role of women in the war against the coronavirus threat. “We can talk about real gender parity here in the health sector. Women represent 50% of the total number of doctors in the country and they also represent a 60% majority of medical school students,” she told Arab Weekly. The Arab female doctor, who is working around the clock in the fight against this ravaging pandemic, is an example for Tunisian girls and women who aspire a career in medicine one day.

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