Queen Rania

Women in the Arab world have experienced throughout history discrimination and have been subject to many restrictions of their freedoms and rights. Some of these practices were based on religious beliefs, but many of the limitations are cultural and come out from tradition rather than religion. The population of the Arab world today is around 300 million where women comprise half of the total population.

Therefore, the education of women in particular is seen to be essential and necessary for the construction of new societies and their contribution to the nation building process is a must. Current statistics mention the significant improvement and the remarkable expansion of educational opportunities at all levels for Arab women in the last two decades. Wealthier women maybe have had more economic and educational opportunities because of their class. Many wealthy women were and continue to be highly educated where they possessed the power to ignore some of the society’s traditional expectations of women and to participate fully in the economic, political, and cultural life of their community.

However, because of the fast progress and new technologies invading the world, it has become much easier for Arab women to get educated. Globalization played a big role in opening societies and increasing the interaction and exchange of experiences and information between different cultures, which made an impact on the Arab society and the idea of women working, achieving and leading. Therefore, an Arab girl nowadays has much better chances than her mother to attend school, finish college and start a professional career. Consequently, the empowerment of women in the Arab societies has become central to the Arab vision of reform. Therefore, many Arab governments are committed and determined to increase educational opportunities and to make them accessible to all women. It is firmly believed that without emancipating women from the bondage of illiteracy, no real political, social or economic development can take place in society.

Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned

Some studies in the Arab world show that the education of women is the most powerful weapon for improving their status as well as the most potent force for social change, and will touch every aspect of their life from the family to economics. For example, it was discovered that women’s education is the best weapon against the population explosion. Since the year 2000, the Arab world has seen the establishment of several Arab women organizations that call for more participation of women in the society. For example, the economic development in the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) is exploding.  New roads, offices, condominiums, shopping malls, and schools are being built every day, fueled by oil money, strategic foreign investments, and leaders who want to put the region on the map with remarkable marks.

The ruling group, anxious to tap the resources of all their citizens, are encouraging women to step up and take leadership roles as businesswomen, heads of financial firms, teachers, scholars, and writers. As a matter of fact, while the global financial crisis devastates economies around the world, GCC governments are devoting significant resources to economic growth including training women and supporting their rise in business. This marks a significant change in the region and in the way people are thinking. Historically, there were few women in Arab countries or who have been employed outside their home. However, in the past decade, the desire and eagerness for economic development have led to dramatic changes in women’s workforce participation, especially in forward-looking places and countries.

Therefore, we can realize that nowadays Arab women are having a better opportunity to shine and show leadership skills in many different domains and positions, whether politics, arts, literature, business, sports, social activities, journalism, and sciences. There are a lot of names that left a mark or still do and they are many to be mentioned in one article, thus reminding people with some of them would be fair enough. In politics, we can easily point out the excellence of Queen Rania of Jordan, who was the first Arab woman to launch a Child Abuse Prevention Project and holds positions such as the President of the Jordan Society of Organ Donation and head of Jordan Blood Disease Society and International Patron of the Osteoporosis Foundation. Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, the wife of his Highness the Emir of Qatar, is a social activist and the driving force behind a host of innovative and groundbreaking programs in Qatar, the region, and the world. She currently serves as UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education and a member of the High-Level Group of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. In arts, there were many faces that are considered as idols.

Saferat AL-Nojoum

Fayrouz, the famous Lebanese singer, is a favorite for the majority of Lebanese and Arabs where she left a big mark on the history of the Lebanese and Arabic Songs and was considered by many to be the voice and conscience of Lebanon. Even today her memory and music have great appeal throughout the Arab world. Um Kulthoum, known as the Kawakab al-Sharq “Star of the Orient” and as al-sitt “the mistress”, is considered to be the most extraordinary and popular Egyptian singer of the 20th century.

In addition to these names, there are several singers and actresses such as Majeda Al Roumy, Soad Hosny, Asmahan, Layla Murad and much more. Now turning to sports, there are two famous names that Arabs can never forget, the Moroccan Nawal Al Mutawakil who was the first Arab woman to win an Olympic Gold medal, and the Syrian Ghada Shoa’a who won the world championship in 1995 won the gold medal in Heptalon at the Olympic Games (Atlanta) 1996.

Moreover, many Arab women shined as journalists and writers such as Emily Nasrallah, Layla Abdul Hamid Sharaf, May Ghossoub, Mona Al Marri and a lot more to mention. In brief, it is clear that the role of women in the Arab world has changed and increased even though in a slow-motion progress, and that the new challenges facing the Arab world economically, socially, politically and academically had made women’s participation an essential need. However, it remains a double responsibility for men and women in the Arab world to support the progress that has happened so far and work on increasing it in a way that makes women’s role more effective towards her society and family at the same time.