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5 Arab women who are breaking down stereotypes and building their countries

Bassam Sebti's picture

There is a horrible old saying in some Arab countries: Women belong to their homes and husbands only. They shouldn’t be educated, work, or have an opinion. This belief, unfortunately, still dominates some areas in the Arab world. But modern, educated, and strong-willed Arab women and men find this saying backward and unfitting.

Women are 49.7% of about 345.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region. Some in the West think of these women as zipped up in a tent in the desert, probably beaten up by their husbands, a stereotype many of today’s Arab women fight and prove wrong.

Yes, there are still many barriers remaining in the way of closing the gender gap in the Arab world, but many advances have been made in education, politics, entrepreneurship, labor, and health. Arab women today are entrepreneurs, leaders, activists, educators, Nobel Prize winners, and much more. They are reshaping their societies and building a better road to gender equality and girl empowerment for generations to come.

Here are some of many stories on how women from different Arab countries are reshaping their societies and fighting gender inequality:

The future is in her hands

Bassam Sebti's picture


She is described as having strong ideas. A spirited and energetic girl who dreams of a big future, Shams helps children and encourages them to learn and play.

But Shams is not a real child. She is a Muppet and one of the most popular fictional characters in the children’s show Iftah Ya Simisim, the Arabic version of the popular, long-running US children’s show Sesame Street, which was introduced in the Arab world in the 1980s.

Girls and Technology Can Change the World

Liviane Urquiza's picture

Young woman working on a computer.
Young woman working on a computer. Tunis, Tunisia. Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank

“Girls programming isn’t just a cool thing; it’s also doubling the chances of developing innovative tools and making the world a better place for everyone.” These words are from my friend Julie, who has been working as a web developer for the last four years. She has also been involved in a few volunteer programs in Africa, mainly to train young women on IT tools.

What Makes a Person Good? We Asked Teens from Around the World

Stacy Morford's picture

Available in Français, Español

How would you define a “good boy” or a “good girl”? Would he help with chores around the house? Would she earn good grades in school?

In a study to learn more about how gender norms influence people’s lives today, the World Bank asked more than 4,000 men, women, boys, and girls from 20 countries about their beliefs about gender and how gender norms shape their everyday lives and decisions. The study put them into single-sex focus groups so the participants could challenge one another’s ideas and build on new ideas.