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By: Shayma Amour/Arab America Contributing Writer
The MENA region has been witnessing an array of instabilities, social disturbances, and serious economic challenges and has been going through many ups and downs for ages. While women and girls are facing many forms of discrimination against them in the Arab world such as gender inequality, many Arab prominent women are calling for encouraging, developing, and empowering other women in the Arab society, believing that they play a vital role in community advancement and development. Below are some of the Arab feminists and women advocates who are constantly campaigning for the enhancement of the social status of Arab women.
Nawal Al-Saadawi is a leading Egyptian feminist, writer, activist, and doctor. She has written many books addressing Arab women issues and women in Islam. She is one of the contemporary authors who is widely translated, as her work is available in twelve languages.
“They said, “You are a savage and dangerous woman. I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous.”
― Woman at Point Zero
“Women are half the society. You cannot have a revolution without women. You cannot have democracy without women. You cannot have equality without women. You can’t have anything without women.”
“Solidarity between women can be a powerful force of change, and can influence future development in ways favorable not only to women but also to men.”
―The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World
Nadine Labaki is a Lebanese actress, screenwriter, and director, known for her movies: Caramel (2007), Where Do We Go Now (2011), Capernaum (2018). Labaki made history as the first female Arab filmmaker to be nominated for the Oscars (2019)for her refugee drama movie Capernaum.
“I’ve seen so many women in my family, so many mothers, that have lost children in the war in such absurd ways. I wonder how they do it. How do they keep living? How do they keep smiling?”
Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi-American humanitarian, entrepreneur, author, and media commentator who has dedicated herself to women’s rights and freedom. At the age of 23, she founded Women for Women International—a grassroots humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of war. (http://zainabsalbi.com/)
“Like life, peace begins with women. We are the first to forge lines of alliance and collaboration across conflict divides.”
“In every single culture I encountered, there were always women who defied cultural norms to do what they believed was right for them. This phenomenon has never been related to how rich, poor, successful or not successful the woman may be.”
“As women, we must speak out, speak up, say no to our inheritance of loss and yes to a future of women-led dialogue about women’s rights and value.”
Huda Kattan is an Arab- American makeup artist, beauty blogger, and entrepreneur. She is the founder of the cosmetics line Huda Beauty.l
“Whenever you are pushing boundaries, there will be push-back from people. Embrace what you stand for and accept that there will be criticism.”
Mona El-Tahawy is an award-winning columnist and international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues and global feminism. She is based in Cairo and New York City. She is the author of “Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution,” released April 2015, and is a contributor to the New York Times opinion pages. Her commentaries have appeared in several other publications and she is a regular guest analyst on various television and radio shows. (http://www.monaeltahawy.com/)
“The battles over women’s bodies can be won only by a revolution of the mind.”
―Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution
Rania Al-Abdullah is the queen of Jordan. She was born in Kuwait to a Palestinian family and moved later to Jordan for work, where she met the then-prince Abdullah II. Locally, she is committed to breathing new life into the public education system; empower communities and women, especially, through microfinance initiatives: protect children and families, drive innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship, especially, amongst young people. (http://www.queenrania.jo/en/rania)