Every year on March 8, the United Nations along with 120 countries around the world officially celebrate females around the Middle East for International Women’s Day. From tennis heroes to AI inventors, the region has been blessed with women who have achieved success in their respective fields.
With that in mind, to honor this day we’ve highlighted Arab women shaking up the region in different fields.
Rana El Kaliouby
Rania El Kaliouby, an Egyptian-American computer scientist, is at the top of our list because she is one of the most significant AI pioneers globally, not only in the Middle East. After earning a Ph.D. at Cambridge, El Kaliouby moved to the United States to pursue her mission of humanizing technology before it “dehumanizes us.” As a result, she co-founded Affectiva and became a pioneer in the new field of Emotion AI.
To create a healthier relationship between humans and machines, Affectiva is a firm that seeks to make our technology better understand us the way we understand one another. She also authored “Girl Decoded” which chronicles El Kaliouby’s journey from being an everyday “Egyptian girl” to a woman who carved her own path while revolutionizing technology.
Lebanese director, screenwriter, and filmmaker Nadine Labaki is an icon known for touching on fundamental issues that are usually taboo within the region. This enabled her to become one of the most admired filmmakers in the Arab world. Her 2007 film “Caramel,” which she wrote, directed, and played a leading role in, premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival and instantly became a commercial success.
Moreover, Labaki has served on the juries of numerous prestigious film festivals. She was on the jury for the “Certain Regard” category at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, as well as at the Tribeca, Sundance, and Venice Film Festivals, where she was also nominated for the Gucci Women in Cinema Award in 2012.
The Tunisian tennis hero, Ons Jabeur shall forever remain one of the greatest athletes that the Arab world has ever produced. She is the first Arab tennis player to break into the top 5 on the Women’s Professional tour (WTA) and the first Arab to come in second place at both Wimbledon and US Open in 2022.
Overall, Ons Jabeur has won three WTA singles titles in her career so far. She won her first WTA Tour title in Birmingham, England, in June 2021, beating Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the final. She won her second title at the Madrid Open in May 2022 and her third in Berlin on the grass in June 2022. In 2019, Jabeur was voted the Best Arab Athlete of the Year and went on to win the Arab Woman of the Year award, given by the London Arabia organization.
Sara Sabry is the first Egyptian Astronaut as well as the first African woman and the first Arab woman to go to space. In August 2022, Sabry traveled on a suborbital flight that is operated by the American private aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin.
The 29-year-old had already completed her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the American University in Cairo and her master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Italy’s Polytechnic University of Milan. Not wanting to limit herself, she is also currently preparing for her PhD in aerospace sciences with a focus on space suit design.
Considered to be one of the most talented Egyptian fashion designers, Farida Temraz is the designer who created the costumes at the mesmerizing Egypt’s historic Pharaohs’ Golden Parade. But that’s not all as she is already well known in the world of Hollywood by dressing celebrities on the red carpet and at Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys.
Temraz is also the first and youngest Egyptian designer to successfully participate in London Fashion Week as well as the first Egyptian to win the first place award among 15 international designers in Paris Fashion Week. In addition, Temraz has been invited to give a speech at the U.S. Embassy by the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US in honor of her collection’s success at Los Angeles Fashion Week and her status as the first Egyptian designer to be featured in a top Hollywood magazine.
All of these Arab women have made contributions to the region while standing up for their own nations and achieving new heights. It was only proper to draw attention to their unquestionable success and showcase their accomplishments in order to encourage young girls to believe in their capacity to pursue their dreams.
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