Across Arab countries, there are myriad stories of successful women in different fields. Some are already known regionally and internationally, while some others are following suit to become under the spotlight.
With the world celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, Gulf News tabloid! puts together stories of Arab women, young and old, who have achieved great heights in the creative field. These women feel hopeful of more accomplishments for themselves and their compatriots in the Arab region.
1. Aysha Al Hemrani (UAE)
A rising star in arts and in serving her community and country, Aysha Ak Hemrani was born in 1991 in Ajman.
The young Emirati artist is well-known for her caricature drawings posted on social media, especially on Instagram under the name of ‘Mnawrah’ since 2006.
Using social media deepened her passion to art and drawings, said Al Hemrani in an interview published few years earlier. She has 17.7 thousands followers on her Instagram account.
“These applications offered me the opportunity to show my work and communicate with people. And when people expressed their admiration to my artistic work and offer encouragement, my desire to develop my skills and zeal grows further,” she was quoted as saying. Her talent in drawing appeared at a very young age, she said.
“I will use my talent in helping my society and show the Emirati identity. Because using this identity in an effective manner will boost the image of our society, as an Arab, Gulf and an Emirati society,” she said.
Today, Al Hemrani is known among many Emiratis of the cause she is using her skills in. She sells bags and purses with drawings inspired by the heritage of the UAE. Those products are assembled by a group of students at the Ajman Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled.
Hemrani obtained her degree in communications and media from Zayed University.
2. Annemarie Jacir (Palestine)
A Palestinian producer, writer and poet, Annemarie Jacir needs little introduction having won international recognition for her work.
Born in the West Bank city of Bethlehem in 1974, Jacir has been working in independent cinema since 1998, and her name was included in the lists of the 25 new faces of Independent cinema filmmakers.
When her movie ‘Wajb’ (which literally means duty in Arabic) was shown in Cannes Film Festival last year, it left the festival with the Arab Cinema Centre Critics’ Awards. It also received awards for best film, best actor and best screenplay. This was after the same film was awarded the Muhr awards for best film and best actor at the 2017 Dubai International Film Festival, and the best film award at the Kerala International Film Festival in the same year.
An alumna of the Columbia University in New York, Jacir also produced several other films. Her short film, ‘like twenty impossibles’, produced in 2003, was the first Arab short film to ever be an official selection of the Cannes International Film Festival and went on to be a Student Academy Awards Finalist, and won later more than 15 awards at international festivals.
Jacir taught courses at the Columbia University and in both West Bank universities of Bethlehem and Birzeit as well as in refugee camps in Palestine and Lebanon.
3. Iman Al Dabbagh (Saudi Arabia)
A Saudi woman who captured the lives of people in Saudi Arabia with her lenses, and did it very in a very smart manner.
“Her pictures are not necessarily pretty, but they are true depictions of people’s lives one story at a time,” wrote one Saudi newspaper on Al Dabbagh.
Her passion for photography and clear respect for the subjects in the centre of her lens paved the way to build a level of trust with people, which enabled her to come closer to their lives and capture some moments in a way that any other visitor couldn’t, the press report said.
The turning point in Al Dabbagh’s photography, from a hobby to a more professional one, happened in 2006, when she met French photographer Alexandra Boulat, who encouraged her to go back to Saudi Arabia, a country that was not open for many.
After graduation, she took a job at a commercial print production for two years, but resigned afterwards, and decided to get professional advice on photography.
Between the years 2007-2010, AL Dabbagh participated in workshops. It was then when she realised that she had a particular passion for raw imagery, and this is what she became known for.
4. Joumana Haddad (Lebanon)
A powerful Lebanese author, a public speaker, a journalist and a women’s rights activist. The 49-year-old Haddad is also a mother of two sons: 26 and 19 years old.
She grew up in Beirut during the darkest days of the Lebanese civil war in the 70s and 80s. However, dreaming and planning for the future proved to be the best support to survive tough days, she said in an interview last year.
“Even if the present is completely dark and calling for desperation, dreaming big, planning well and educating yourself will ultimately give you a better tomorrow,” she said.
Today, Haddad encourages young women to continue to be “thirsty for knowledge”, saying reading books at a very young age helped made her the person she is today.
Haddad was chosen in October 2009 as one of the 39 most interesting Arab writers under the age of 39.
After publishing several poetry books, she released her book ‘The Seamstress’ Daughter’ in late 2018.
5. Ahdaf Soueif (Egypt)
A novelist with a long impressive list of publications and achievements.
Born in Cairo in 1950, Soueif received her education in both Egypt and English, where she obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Lancaster. She lives in both Cairo and London.
She wrote two collections of short stories: Aisha, which was published in 1983 and Sandpiper in 1996. She also wrote two novels; ‘In the Eye of the Sun’ and ‘The Map of Love’, the latter was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.
In 2004, she published her book of essays, ‘Mezzaterra’, and in 2012, she published ‘My City, Our Revolution’, which is a personal account of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
Soueif is a political commentator on Egyptian and Palestinian issues. She is the founder of the Palestine Festival of Literature, Pal Fest.
She is a member of several societies, committees and organisations, including the international Prize for Arab Fiction, and the Edward Said Annual Lecture, and the Royal Society of Literature, all of which are based in the UK.
6. Sara Jadallah (Sudan)
First Sudanese woman to work in the Cinema and TV production, an extra achiever and a grandmother.
Born in Khartoum in 1956, Jaddallah suffered from polio at the age of two.
But her illness didn’t stop her from becoming a swimmer, after her family was advised to teach her swimming as physical therapy.
At the age of eight, she won her country’s championship, and at the age of 14, she represented Sudan in competitions abroad.
Jadallah, who is the daughter of late prominent filmmaker Jaddallah Jubarah, travelled to Cairo to study film production and became later the first Sudanese women to work in the field.
In one of her interviews, she praised her father and his encouragement saying her success came because she is his daughter.
“It is very important to have somebody next to you who makes you optimistic. Until today, I live through the strength he gave me”, she said in an interview published in 2015.
Jadallah, with a little help from German experts, has started digitising her father’s entire film collection.
Her father’s career spanned for more than five decades in which nearly 100 documentaries and four feature films were produced.