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:
- Iraq: A school for girls with touch-smart whiteboards
Al Bermani didn’t only donate the big bucks but was also was also involved in the selection of the teaching staff. With the money she donated, she equipped the school with the latest technologies, including touch-smart whiteboards and high-end laboratories, that could be benefit the students in a revolutionary way.
- Tunisia: Leaving Paris to serve a village
The Sorbonne-educated young woman also founded Acacias for All in Tunisia to fight the land's desertification with sustainable agriculture techniques, like planting acacia trees.
Toumi was selected as one of the 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs Making Change in Europe and around the World in 2016.
- Jordan: Self -defense, one kick at a time
Lina Khalifeh, a martial artist and women’s empowerment campaigner, founded the NGO SheFighter in 2010 to teach Jordanian women self-defense and to combat domestic abuse in the country. She was inspired to do so after one of her friends was attacked badly by her father and brother. Seeing her beaten up, she wanted to teach her and other women how to be strong and how to defend themselves from such acts.
- Yemen: Calling for democracy peacefully
In 2011, Karman became the first Arab woman ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
إسأل التاريخ عني .. أنا يمني pic.twitter.com/1OOeS7upsx— توكل كرمان (@TawakkolKarman) February 18, 2014
- Syria: The Arab Malala
For two years, Mazoun has been carrying out a one-girl campaign to convince parents to keep their daughters in school instead of forcing them into marriage. Mazoun has been dubbed the “Syrian Malala” for her fight to keep girls in school, a reference to the Pakistani education activist whom the Taliban attacked in 2012.