Meet The Arab Women Shattering Taboos Over The Past Decade

Acclaimed Saudi Director Haifaa Al Mansour

For most of history, the Arab world has been a patriarchal society. Yet, in recent decades, there has been a noticeable change and more women than ever have been standing up to claim their rightful place in society. The past decade has witnessed new faces, and some of the old ones, leaving their mark and empowering younger generations to follow suit.

Here are our picks for the leading women of our region shattering taboos and making waves.

Nadine Labaki

In January of 2019, Nadine Labaki’s film ‘Capernaum’ was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Feature category, reserving a place in history as the first female Arab director to ever be nominated for an Oscar. Moreover, ‘Capernaum’ is the highest-grossing Middle Eastern film of all time.

Reema Juffali 

When Saudi Arabia’s government abolished the ban on women driving vehicles in 2017, this step opened doors for Reema Juffali to pursue her passion as a Formula 1 race driver. Her debut was in Yas Marina Circuit in 2018, while her second appearance was at the F4 British Championship in 2019.

Dalia Badrawi

When she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, Dalia Badrawi did not surrender to the debilitating disease. Instead, she decided to take charge of her life and carried on with her passion, venturing on to climb Mount Elbrus, the highest summit in all of Europe.

Reema Bandar Al-Saud

For years, Saudi Arabia was under constant criticism for its women’s rights situation. However, this all changed in the past two years when a number of reforms were passed. Today, Saudi’s ambassador to the United States of America is a woman for the first time ever. Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud is also a vocal advocate for women’s and children’s rights.

Nawal Al-Saadawi

Via Flickr.

A feminist writer, activist, physician, and psychiatrist, Nawal Al-Saadawi has been standing up for women’s rights over generations. She has been dubbed “the Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab World” for fighting against female genital mutilation and females’ right to education.

Haifaa Al-Mansour

Born with a heart full of passion and fierce determination, Haifaa Al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker of international renown. She is one of the country’s most well-known directors and has made herself a household name in Hollywood.

Haifaa Al-Mansour’s debut feature film, “Wadjda” is the only full-length film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and as of 2013, it has been credited with being the only feature to be shot by a female filmmaker in the Kingdom.

Amira Yahyaoui

Tunisian entrepreneur, blogger, and human rights activist, Amira Yahyaoui, is one of the leading women’s rights activists. As the Founder and CEO of, an education and civic tech company based in San Francisco, she is one of the young changemakers of the Arab World. She was previously the Founder and President of Al Bawsala, multi-awarded transparency and accountability NGO.

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