Today is Malala Day, which not only marks Malala Yousafzai’s birthday, but also recognises her relentless efforts as an activist for equality in education. In her honour, we’re celebrating six inspirational women who are also empowering youth, improving access to education, and championing women’s rights – each of whom hails from the region we call “home”.
Between serving as CEO of Injaz-Kuwait (a non-profit organisation for education and training in workforce readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship) and General Manager of The Scientific Center of Kuwait (an institution that aims to promote science and environmental knowledge), Rana’s devotion to youth development in her hometown is downright admirable. An EMBA degree holder from London Business School and an engineer by trade, she says, “Going into situations where the mandate is to drive change, situations that others might find intimidating – I find it exciting.”
Sheikha Jawaher Bint Khalifa Al Khalifa
The name Sheikha Jawaher Al Khalifa Foundation for Youth Empowerment says it all – the Bahraini royal is the chairperson of this institution that supports young entrepreneurs by nurturing their talent, matching them with the right investors, sponsoring youth projects, exchanging experience dialogues, and encouraging more inclusive communities. But that’s not all. Sheikha Jawaher clearly values human welfare, too, presenting the Champion in Humanitarian Award to Chinie Jane Ching earlier this year. Now known as “cow mama”, the UAE resident has donated her breast milk to countless babies whose mothers have contracted COVID-19.
Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran
A pioneer in the true sense of the word, Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran is the first female lawyer from the kingdom, becoming the first Saudi female lawyer to appear in court back in 2013. One year later, she broke boundaries again, setting up the first all-female law firm in Saudi Arabia. Her objective? Fighting for the rights of Saudi women and providing them legal access in a safe space, especially in cases where a male lawyer cannot understand the issues and restrictions faced by a female plaintiff. She’s also vocal about the role and significance of female lawyers in enhancing the country’s legal system, thereby encouraging young women to follow suit.
HE Reem Al Hashimy
While most of the recent attention around Reem Al Hashimy has been rooted in her role as Director General of Expo 2020, we’re taking today to celebrate her achievements as Chairperson of Dubai Cares, a philanthropic organisation aimed at improving access to quality education in developing countries. Since its inception in 2007, Dubai Cares has been working in partnership with UN aid agencies and international and local NGOs to implement education programmes that target children and young adults, with projects completed in the likes of India, Indonesia, Paraguay, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, and more.
HH Sayyida Basma Al Said
This Omani royal is also on a mission to educate, but her area of focus? The significance of mental health. Not only is the founder of Whispers of Serenity – the first mental health clinic in Oman – but she’s also a proponent of seeking help without feeling shame. In fact, Basma launched a campaign titled Not Alone back in 2014, aimed at facilitating access to support services and tackling long-standing misconceptions around mental health issues. These days, Whispers of Serenity is working with Oman’s Ministry of Education to support mental health services created just for children.
Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser Al Thani
Chairperson of non-profit Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development, Sheikha Moza is so much more than royalty, regularly courting leading educational institutions from around the world to set up campuses in Qatar’s Education City. She also chairs the Board of Governors at Sidra Medicine, a state-of-the-art facility committed to providing the women and children of Qatar with world-class tertiary healthcare services. The fact that she supports up-and-coming fashion designers from the region as honorary chair of Fashion Trust Arabia is just the proverbial cherry on top.