Girl power! Arab women have their day in the sun

Published March 7th, 2013 - 16:11 GMT

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On 8 March, International Women’s Day marks a time for the world to celebrate its fairer-sex. 

While promoting women’s rights and celebrating females everywhere, the annual event importantly puts ‘girl power’ into the spotlight. 

In a region often associated with female oppression, the day is particularly important for the Middle East. 

Not content with living in a man’s world’s, the region’s fearless feminists have been fighting for power and winning!

From becoming influential politicians, to scandalous stars and thought-provoking writers, these courageous ladies have torn down barriers to excel in fields across the board. 

And it seems that nothing from criticism to time behind bars will stand in the way of these female heavy hitters. 

Here are some of the most powerful women the Middle East has to offer. Continue reading below »

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The UAE’s first female minister, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, is one seriously powerful woman. As the Minister for Foreign Trade, Sheikha helps build international ties that boost the country’s economy. A woman of many talents, entrepreneurial Sheikha balances her business ventures with attempts to establish a US Mid East Free Trade Area.
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Image 1 of 10:  1 / 10The UAE’s first female minister, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, is one seriously powerful woman. As the Minister for Foreign Trade, Sheikha helps build international ties that boost the country’s economy. A woman of many talents, entrepreneurial Sheikha balances her business ventures with attempts to establish a US Mid East Free Trade Area.

Enlarge
Egyptian superstar Yousra is one of the biggest names in the world of Arab showbiz. The actress has been a firm favorite on the region’s big and small screen productions for over 40 years. But far from being just another celebrity diva, Yousra has shown a softer side to stardom, working as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
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Image 2 of 10:  2 / 10Egyptian superstar Yousra is one of the biggest names in the world of Arab showbiz. The actress has been a firm favorite on the region’s big and small screen productions for over 40 years. But far from being just another celebrity diva, Yousra has shown a softer side to stardom, working as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

Enlarge
Conservative Saudi Arabia is one of the harder places in the region to achieve power as a woman. But writer and novelist, Bdreyeh Al-Bishier, has managed it. As well as having a daily column in Al-Haya newspaper, the female wordsmith has brought many a controversial novel to the kingdom, earning her praise and criticism in equal measure.
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Image 3 of 10:  3 / 10Conservative Saudi Arabia is one of the harder places in the region to achieve power as a woman. But writer and novelist, Bdreyeh Al-Bishier, has managed it. As well as having a daily column in Al-Haya newspaper, the female wordsmith has brought many a controversial novel to the kingdom, earning her praise and criticism in equal measure.

Enlarge
Princess Ameerah Al Taweel is one of the region’s best known philanthropists. The 29-year-old Saudi Arabian Princess is involved with charity projects across the globe including Burkina Faso, where she opened an orphanage, and in her native homeland, where she is an advocate of women's rights, including allowing women to drive.
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Image 4 of 10:  4 / 10Princess Ameerah Al Taweel is one of the region’s best known philanthropists. The 29-year-old Saudi Arabian Princess is involved with charity projects across the globe including Burkina Faso, where she opened an orphanage, and in her native homeland, where she is an advocate of women's rights, including allowing women to drive.

Enlarge
Controversial Egyptian writer, Nawal El Sa’dawi, has never been afraid of speaking her mind. Her no-holds-barred approach to writing about everything from religion to female genital mutilation has seen her sacked from the Ministry of Health and imprisoned. But so far nothing has stopped this fearless feminist.
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Image 5 of 10:  5 / 10Controversial Egyptian writer, Nawal El Sa’dawi, has never been afraid of speaking her mind. Her no-holds-barred approach to writing about everything from religion to female genital mutilation has seen her sacked from the Ministry of Health and imprisoned. But so far nothing has stopped this fearless feminist.

Enlarge
Nancy Ajram and Ahlam might both be famous singers in their own right but they knew they had hit the big time when they landed spots on the region’s favorite prime-time talent show, Arab Idol. Keeping the Mideast entertained with catchy tunes, celeb spats and glamorous outfits, these are two of the most influential ladies in the Arab world.
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Image 6 of 10:  6 / 10Nancy Ajram and Ahlam might both be famous singers in their own right but they knew they had hit the big time when they landed spots on the region’s favorite prime-time talent show, Arab Idol. Keeping the Mideast entertained with catchy tunes, celeb spats and glamorous outfits, these are two of the most influential ladies in the Arab world.

Enlarge
Kholoud Al-Faqih overcame obstacles to become the first woman judge on Sharia courts in Ramallah. Kholoud had worked in numerous roles supporting women’s rights before being appointed. Only one other country, Sudan, has female Sahri judges, making her position historic across the globe.
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Image 7 of 10:  7 / 10Kholoud Al-Faqih overcame obstacles to become the first woman judge on Sharia courts in Ramallah. Kholoud had worked in numerous roles supporting women’s rights before being appointed. Only one other country, Sudan, has female Sahri judges, making her position historic across the globe.

Enlarge
Cairo-born Dalia Mogahed is an scholar who was appointed by US President Barack Obama to work on a project on faith-based organizations and community partnerships.This made her the first veiled Muslim women to work in the White House. Dalia also runs the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington D.C.
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Image 8 of 10:  8 / 10Cairo-born Dalia Mogahed is an scholar who was appointed by US President Barack Obama to work on a project on faith-based organizations and community partnerships.This made her the first veiled Muslim women to work in the White House. Dalia also runs the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington D.C.

Enlarge
Syrian actress, Sulaf Fawakherji, is one of her country’s most celebrated stars. Since going public with her support of embattled President Bashar Al-Assad in May 2011, the glamorous beauty has been ‘blacklisted’. But despite this, her slew of high profile roles makes her a staple on the region’s lists of ‘influential women’.
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Image 9 of 10:  9 / 10Syrian actress, Sulaf Fawakherji, is one of her country’s most celebrated stars. Since going public with her support of embattled President Bashar Al-Assad in May 2011, the glamorous beauty has been ‘blacklisted’. But despite this, her slew of high profile roles makes her a staple on the region’s lists of ‘influential women’.

Enlarge
Born in Kuwait, of Iraqi heritage, Faten Al-Naqeeb is one of the Gulf region's most famous female lawyers, working for Al-Naqeeb Co. The companies she heads have practices in every GCC state and across the region. Faten is also heavily involved in advocacy groups for women’s rights and helps get women involved in civil society organisations.
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Image 10 of 10:  10 / 10Born in Kuwait, of Iraqi heritage, Faten Al-Naqeeb is one of the Gulf region's most famous female lawyers, working for Al-Naqeeb Co. The companies she heads have practices in every GCC state and across the region. Faten is also heavily involved in advocacy groups for women’s rights and helps get women involved in civil society organisations.

Enlarge

1

The UAE’s first female minister, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, is one seriously powerful woman. As the Minister for Foreign Trade, Sheikha helps build international ties that boost the country’s economy. A woman of many talents, entrepreneurial Sheikha balances her business ventures with attempts to establish a US Mid East Free Trade Area.

Image 1 of 10The UAE’s first female minister, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, is one seriously powerful woman. As the Minister for Foreign Trade, Sheikha helps build international ties that boost the country’s economy. A woman of many talents, entrepreneurial Sheikha balances her business ventures with attempts to establish a US Mid East Free Trade Area.

2

Egyptian superstar Yousra is one of the biggest names in the world of Arab showbiz. The actress has been a firm favorite on the region’s big and small screen productions for over 40 years. But far from being just another celebrity diva, Yousra has shown a softer side to stardom, working as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

Image 2 of 10Egyptian superstar Yousra is one of the biggest names in the world of Arab showbiz. The actress has been a firm favorite on the region’s big and small screen productions for over 40 years. But far from being just another celebrity diva, Yousra has shown a softer side to stardom, working as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

3

Conservative Saudi Arabia is one of the harder places in the region to achieve power as a woman. But writer and novelist, Bdreyeh Al-Bishier, has managed it. As well as having a daily column in Al-Haya newspaper, the female wordsmith has brought many a controversial novel to the kingdom, earning her praise and criticism in equal measure.

Image 3 of 10Conservative Saudi Arabia is one of the harder places in the region to achieve power as a woman. But writer and novelist, Bdreyeh Al-Bishier, has managed it. As well as having a daily column in Al-Haya newspaper, the female wordsmith has brought many a controversial novel to the kingdom, earning her praise and criticism in equal measure.

4

Princess Ameerah Al Taweel is one of the region’s best known philanthropists. The 29-year-old Saudi Arabian Princess is involved with charity projects across the globe including Burkina Faso, where she opened an orphanage, and in her native homeland, where she is an advocate of women's rights, including allowing women to drive.

Image 4 of 10Princess Ameerah Al Taweel is one of the region’s best known philanthropists. The 29-year-old Saudi Arabian Princess is involved with charity projects across the globe including Burkina Faso, where she opened an orphanage, and in her native homeland, where she is an advocate of women's rights, including allowing women to drive.

5

Controversial Egyptian writer, Nawal El Sa’dawi, has never been afraid of speaking her mind. Her no-holds-barred approach to writing about everything from religion to female genital mutilation has seen her sacked from the Ministry of Health and imprisoned. But so far nothing has stopped this fearless feminist.

Image 5 of 10Controversial Egyptian writer, Nawal El Sa’dawi, has never been afraid of speaking her mind. Her no-holds-barred approach to writing about everything from religion to female genital mutilation has seen her sacked from the Ministry of Health and imprisoned. But so far nothing has stopped this fearless feminist.

6

Nancy Ajram and Ahlam might both be famous singers in their own right but they knew they had hit the big time when they landed spots on the region’s favorite prime-time talent show, Arab Idol. Keeping the Mideast entertained with catchy tunes, celeb spats and glamorous outfits, these are two of the most influential ladies in the Arab world.

Image 6 of 10Nancy Ajram and Ahlam might both be famous singers in their own right but they knew they had hit the big time when they landed spots on the region’s favorite prime-time talent show, Arab Idol. Keeping the Mideast entertained with catchy tunes, celeb spats and glamorous outfits, these are two of the most influential ladies in the Arab world.

7

Kholoud Al-Faqih overcame obstacles to become the first woman judge on Sharia courts in Ramallah. Kholoud had worked in numerous roles supporting women’s rights before being appointed. Only one other country, Sudan, has female Sahri judges, making her position historic across the globe.

Image 7 of 10Kholoud Al-Faqih overcame obstacles to become the first woman judge on Sharia courts in Ramallah. Kholoud had worked in numerous roles supporting women’s rights before being appointed. Only one other country, Sudan, has female Sahri judges, making her position historic across the globe.

8

Cairo-born Dalia Mogahed is an scholar who was appointed by US President Barack Obama to work on a project on faith-based organizations and community partnerships.This made her the first veiled Muslim women to work in the White House. Dalia also runs the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington D.C.

Image 8 of 10Cairo-born Dalia Mogahed is an scholar who was appointed by US President Barack Obama to work on a project on faith-based organizations and community partnerships.This made her the first veiled Muslim women to work in the White House. Dalia also runs the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington D.C.

9

Syrian actress, Sulaf Fawakherji, is one of her country’s most celebrated stars. Since going public with her support of embattled President Bashar Al-Assad in May 2011, the glamorous beauty has been ‘blacklisted’. But despite this, her slew of high profile roles makes her a staple on the region’s lists of ‘influential women’.

Image 9 of 10Syrian actress, Sulaf Fawakherji, is one of her country’s most celebrated stars. Since going public with her support of embattled President Bashar Al-Assad in May 2011, the glamorous beauty has been ‘blacklisted’. But despite this, her slew of high profile roles makes her a staple on the region’s lists of ‘influential women’.

10

Born in Kuwait, of Iraqi heritage, Faten Al-Naqeeb is one of the Gulf region's most famous female lawyers, working for Al-Naqeeb Co. The companies she heads have practices in every GCC state and across the region. Faten is also heavily involved in advocacy groups for women’s rights and helps get women involved in civil society organisations.

Image 10 of 10Born in Kuwait, of Iraqi heritage, Faten Al-Naqeeb is one of the Gulf region's most famous female lawyers, working for Al-Naqeeb Co. The companies she heads have practices in every GCC state and across the region. Faten is also heavily involved in advocacy groups for women’s rights and helps get women involved in civil society organisations.

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Tell us what you think! Who have been the most influential women of the last twelve months? Add a comment and join in the conversation!

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