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10 Trailblazers You May Not Know – But Should

Happy Emirati Women’s Day!

Forget everything you think you know about Emirati women because, in 2021, this is a demographic defying stereotypes and shattering glass ceilings in the fields of film, fashion, sports, aviation, and more. Case in point? Every single woman on this list.

Here, The Gaggler reveals 10 Emirati women who are trailblazers in their fields and how to follow them – in honor of Emirati Women’s Day, of course. For the uninitiated, Emirati Women’s Day is celebrated annually on August 28, with this year’s theme being Women: Ambitions & Inspiration for Next 50 Years, reflecting the UAE’s golden jubilee.

1. Amna Al Haddad

Youth mentor? Check. Published author? Check. Mental health advocate? Check again. As for what earns Amna Al Haddad a spot on this list? Not only is she the first female Emirati weightlifter, but she also became the first Arab and GCC national to compete in the Reebok Crossfit Asia Regionals in South Seoul – and did so wearing her hijab. Today, Amna is an inspirational speaker, using her unique journey from depression to dumbbells to imprint hope and determination in the minds of her audiences.

Follow her here.

2. Amna Al Qubaisi

Image: Courtesy of Guido De Bortoli

Conquering a traditionally masculine field is Amna Al Qubaisi, the first Emirati female racing driver. Incidentally, Amna trained as a gymnast, but it was her father – Le Mans racing driver Khaled Al Qubaisi – and his passion for all things motorsport that steered her in a new direction. At only 18, she became the first Arab woman to take part in a Formula E test when she drove for the Envision Virgin Racing team back in 2018 and the rest, as they say, is history. She went on to win her first F4 UAE race at Yas Marina Circuit in 2019 and make her F3 debut in the Asian Regional F3 Championship earlier this year, setting her sights on Formula One in the long run.

Follow her here.

3. Fahima Falaknaz

Another pioneer in a super-masculine world? Fahima Falaknaz, the first Emirati female boxer. Citing Bruce Lee as her idol growing up, she made history when she became the first Emirati female boxer to represent the UAE in the Asian Boxing Confederation Championship in 2019. Today, she’s determined to see more women in the ring, joining Real Boxing Only gym in Al Quoz to coach ladies-only fitness classes and dispel the myth that martial arts are only for men. Not only is she a vocal proponent of the mental and physical benefits that come with boxing, but she also uses her platform to speak up against bullying.

Follow her here.

4. Hanady Alhashmi

There’s mountaineers – and then there’s mountaineers with a purpose. Meet Hanady Alhashmi, who is celebrated not only for summiting five of the world’s Seven Summits, but also for being the first Emirati woman to successfully climb Denali in Alaska. Even more impressive are her efforts to raise awareness around Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, as part of the #ClimbforMS initiative. In fact, when lockdown prevented her from conquering the remaining two summits, she ‘scaled’ Everest at home, using a treadmill at varied inclines to simulate its height of 8,848 metres in order to highlight how both mountain climbing and living with MS require resilience.

Follow her here.

5. Latifa Al Shamsi

Long before the word ‘influencer’ entered our everyday vernacular, Latifa Al Shamsi was sharing her favourite fashion pieces, dining outlets, and travel destinations with her followers – a figure that now exceeds 388,000 on Instagram. While her claim to fame is the fact that she’s the first Emirati fashion and lifestyle blogger, the tastemaker has only garnered a whole new fan base between navigating motherhood and running her fashion events company, Events by Latifa Al Shamsi.

Follow her here.

6. Nayla Al Khaja

Filmmaker, motivational speaker, brand ambassador, cultural consultant – Nayla Al Khaja is the definitive multihyphenate. Not only is she the first female Emirati producer and director, but she’s also the first Emirati to break into Hollywood. Nayla devised the concept of The Alexandria Killings – a series depicting the real-life story of Egyptian serial killer sisters Raya and Sakina – during lockdown. These days, she’s juggling motherhood and work on her debut feature film Three, which is scheduled to be filmed in February 2022.

Follow her here.

7. Nora Al Matrooshi

A mechanical engineer by training, Nora Al Matrooshi has been making headlines worldwide for the past few months – and for good reason. In April, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum took to Twitter to announce that Nora will be joining NASA’s 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class in the USA. This means that not only is she on the path to becoming one of only 66 women to go into space, but she’s also the first female Arab astronaut in the world. The Sharjah native has been passionate about space since she was a little girl, and it paid off; Nora was chosen from over 4,000 candidates to be trained for future space exploration missions.

Follow her here.

8. Rafeea Al-Hajsi

Rafeea Al Hajsi officially became the first Emirati model back in 2016, making history as she strut the catwalk at Arab Fashion Week. And she hasn’t looked back since. Today, she’s also an artist, an actress, and a TV host – and continues to reign as a runway model. Delving into the behind-the-scenes struggles that she has faced, the striking beauty has admitted that it hasn’t always been easy in the industry, citing online trolls, social taboos, and staying true to her roots as factors. Nevertheless, Rafeea has persisted and walked the runway for the likes of Laura Mancini and Aiisha Ramadan.

Follow her here.

9. Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum

Sheikha-turned-captain Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum is a trailblazer in the aviation industry, starting her career as a commercial first officer Pilot at Emirates airline in 2017, making her the first female pilot in Dubai. Shortly after, the princess – yes, she’s part of the Al Maktoum family – went on become the first woman to be appointed as First Lieutenant Pilot at Dubai Police. As for her ultimate focus? Gender equality in aviation. Sheikha Mozah founded the Women in Aviation Association (SHEHANA) in 2019 in order to accelerate the development of women in the aviation industry not only as pilots or crew members, but also lawyers, engineers, and other vital roles.

Follow her here.

10. Zahra Lari 

Figure skater Zahra Lari has stolen hearts everywhere for so many other reasons: she’s the first woman to have competed internationally while wearing a headscarf, she’s the reason UAE became the first Arab country to join the International Skating Union, she was inspired to take up figure skating after watching Ice Princess. A five-time National Champion, she has been an ambassador of the Nike Pro Hijab line since its launch in 2017, making her a source of inspiration for young Muslim women worldwide. She’s also the founder and CEO of Emirates Skating Club – did we mention she’s only 26?

Follow her here.

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