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In its new Women of Progress initiative, Franklin Templeton presents a captivating set of true stories dedicated to shining a spotlight on the remarkable achievements of women in the UAE. At the heart of the series lies the conviction that progress knows no boundaries, and the UAE is a testament to this belief. From pioneering entrepreneurs to groundbreaking sportswomen, their stories transcend limitations and challenge the status quo. Through their resilience, determination, and unwavering pursuit of excellence, they have shattered glass ceilings, paved new paths, and become beacons of hope for countless others.

Breaking stereotypes

Areej Al Hammadi’s love for football burned brightly from a young age. Growing up in Sharjah as the only girl in her family, she spent hours watching World Cup matches, and re-enacting them with her brothers and cousins. But even as she dreamed of one day playing for her country, she was being told that the sport was not meant for girls.

Undeterred, she pushed past these limiting beliefs and prejudices to play for her university team, then in the local leagues, until one day, she had the chance she had dreamed of as a little girl – to try out for the UAE national team. And true to form, she seized it, becoming a member of the team and representing UAE worldwide.

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“If you tell me I can’t do something, it’s just going to fuel my desire to do it even more,” she says. “The notion that a sport like football is exclusively for boys just doesn’t make sense to me. For me progress is breaking the stereotypes. It’s about doing what the heart believes is right.”

Areej is part of the video series by Franklin Templeton, one of the world’s largest investment managers, called Women of Progress, honouring the achievements of women in the UAE, shining a spotlight on their unique strengths, struggles, and journey to success.

A balancing act

Seven years ago, Saana Azzam took a huge risk and quit her steady banking job to found MENA Speakers, a visionary platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of individuals from the region. But her biggest challenge was yet to come – attempting to find a balance between motherhood and work, even if it meant having to take the call of a client in crisis just hours after giving birth to her daughter.

“Looking back, I’m proud of the choices I’ve made,” she says. “I proved to myself that it is possible to be a dedicated mother and a successful role model at the same time.”

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Today, MENA Speakers has a global team in multiple countries, and as founder and CEO, Azzam has personally given talks in over 20 countries. And this is just the beginning – striving to make an impact on the world while balancing career and family is a lifelong journey for this mumpreneur. “Though it might be uncomfortable and challenging at times, it’s ultimately what brings us the greatest sense of fulfillment and joy,” she says.

Empowering women

At the young age of 19, when most of us are still trying to figure out our future, Latifa Bin Haider had already embarked on her mission to empower women. While still a senior in college, she founded Baytukum, a powerful platform to help women navigate the world of real estate investment and achieve financial independence.

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“The major challenges women face when it comes to investing are insufficient funds and fear that holds them back due to either lack of experience or knowledge of finance. Baytukum removes these hurdles from their path,” she says.

Inspired by her father from childhood, Latifa always knew she would grow up to create something that would have a positive impact on society. And though juggling her studies, entrepreneurship projects and social life hasn’t been easy, she has absolutely no regrets. “I’ve learnt that in this path there are ups and downs, and every failure is a lesson and a little step towards reaching my goals,” she says.

Challenge the unknown

Kamiya Jani, founder of Curly Tales, took a leap of faith when she gave up her media career to follow her passion and establish a food, travel and lifestyle content platform that would make a mark in the industry. Just two years into the venture, she made the bold decision to expand beyond India and launch Curly Tales in the UAE, venturing into a market unfamiliar to her. Today, the company that began in Kamiya’s study as a dream of reaching out to fellow food and travel enthusiasts has six million followers across all media platforms, with a reach of nearly 50 million.

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“Every day I wake up with a hunger to learn more and grow, both personally and in my business,” she says, “because I believe one of the most important qualities an entrepreneur can have is the willingness to admit that you don’t know everything.”

Women of Progress

These four stories exemplify the accomplishments of women across the UAE who have defied norms, shattered stereotypes, and made significant strides in their respective fields, which is why they were such a natural fit for the Women of Progress series. The brainchild of Franklin Templeton’s regional marketing team, and created in collaboration with Mashable Middle East, this inspiring video series is a rousing celebration of women achievers.

It also serves to shine a light on UAE’s transformation into a global hub of diversity and innovation, where women who dare to dream today have the tools, they need at their disposal to fight and rise above the limitations of gender inequality and discrimination.

"Their stories serve as a reminder that with courage, passion and perseverance, one can overcome any challenge and make a significant impact,” says Balaaji Vaidyanathan, Director - Marketing, CEEMEA, Franklin Templeton.

The Women of Progress series aligns with the UAE's vision by celebrating the accomplishments of extraordinary women who have embraced the spirit of progress and contributed to society’s growth.

- Balaaji Vaidyanathan, Director - Marketing, CEEMEA, Franklin Templeton

“I strongly believe that these stories are rooted in Franklin Templeton’s belief that progress is a not just a destination but a continuous journey, and a process that requires support and nurturing from friends, family and society.”

This content is not an endorsement by Franklin Templeton of any company or business. All investments entail risks, including loss of principal investment amount. Issued by Franklin Templeton Investments (ME) Limited, authorised and regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

This content comes from Reach by Gulf News, which is the branded content team of GN Media.