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Women Pioneers

Message from the Director

Women Pioneers Who Changed the Arab World

The 57 Arab women pioneers profiled in the directory below might already be household names and some might be less known, however, they all deserve our attention. These pioneering figures changed their countries thanks to their enormous contributions to women’s rights, education, academia, health, science, politics, literature, art, architecture, media, aviation, and many other fields. They worked towards a future of equity, equality, and justice as basic values.

All of these agents of change are strong voices, tireless advocates, and major activists for reform in their countries with a common goal of advancing gender equality and women’s rights. Many of them persisted despite numerous social, cultural and political obstacles.

The writers, thinkers, and journalists among them helped ignite, through their articles and public speeches, the will of others to advocate for women’s rights.

The political activists led the way and traced a path where women could play new roles outside traditional roles and thereby helped guide their societies and countries in new directions.

The pioneer women scientists called on other scientists to protect against nuclear hazards, or worked with them on preventing diseases and expanding access to health services.

These pioneers founded civil society organizations, presided over universities, increased access to educational systems, reformed health systems, helped launch new movements, organized women’s marches, challenged traditional norms, and worked with leading national figures to improve the status of women and girls in their countries.

Each one of the 57 pioneers accomplished a first in her field. In the late 19th century and in most of the 20th century, it was highly unusual to find a female in many of the positions that these pioneers occupied.

Each of these women dared to be the first. Each of these women challenged convention, and stepped outside of expected roles, and thus created new opportunities for her sisters. Many of these pathfinders believed that the status quo was not an option.

These extraordinary women pushed society to think bigger, change some unfair norms and regulations, overcome barriers, break glass ceilings, and move forward. The 57 women in the directory are excellent examples of women with powerful visions, boundless courage, strong will, and inspiring determination to create a more equitable world. They changed the Arab world by transcending boundaries in their fields and by opening new paths for women and future generations. Thanks to each of them, women and girls are able to live with fewer restraints and greater dreams.

These pioneers are Arab history's greatest female role models.

May Rihani