This week we present some of the Arab world’s most powerful women and how they are helping mold the region and its future. We will continue featuring more of these dynamic ladies in our upcoming issues.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi
For the fourth year in a row, there’s just no beating Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, who has again made it to the top of our Power List. The UAE’s first-ever female cabinet minister, Sheikha Lubna was promoted to her current brief as Minister of International Cooperation and Development after a lengthy stint as Minister of Foreign Trade.
Sheikha Lubna was appointed to her first ministerial post in November 2004 — becoming Minister of Economy and Planning. This year marks her tenth anniversary of serving her country’s government.
The Emirati national’s background lies in IT; she won plaudits for developing a system that slashed cargo turnaround times at Dubai airport, and in 2000 founded Tejari, the Middle East’s first business-to-business online marketplace. The firm, which is now one of Dubai World’s most successful units, has franchises across the Middle East and was initially funded by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and vice president and prime minister of the UAE.
The minister is currently working hard to sign off the US Middle East Free Trade Area.
But amidst her whirlwind tours around the world, Sheikha Lubna has still managed to retain her own business interests, which have included setting up a perfume line.
The minister also sits on the board of directors at the Dubai Chamber for Commerce and Industry, is vice chairman of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and is on the board at the National US Arab Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, Sheikha Lubna is also a board member of the Emirates Foundation Abu Dhabi, as well as the Dubai School of Government. She is also a board member of Friends of Cancer Patients. She holds a BSc from California State University of Chico, as well as an MBA from the American University of Sharjah.
Haifa Al Mansour
Haifa Al Mansour has done more than most to give the planet a glimpse into the conservative world of Saudi Arabia.
Last year, her film Wadjda was the first Saudi movie to be entered into the Oscars, as Best Foreign Language Film. Although Wadjda did not win, the film won numerous awards, including three prizes at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.
Wadjda tells the story of a rebellious girl who dreams of owning a green bicycle. Al Mansour was forced to direct her first film from a van with a walkie-talkie in some areas where she could not be seen in public. Despite the fact that she was regularly heckled during filming, she felt the responsibility to tell a story often ignored by the world’s media. “I tried to be very close to my roots and show things that were very intimate about Saudi women away from what we see in the news,” she said.
The film director, who is a backer of the campaign to allow women to drive in her home country, says she has received death threats for her views from local conservatives.
“I want to do stories about embracing life and hope and empowering girls, it’s very dear to me to make things like this,” she told the New Statesman last year. “But the way I do it is very soft. I try to avoid being controversial, but in Saudi you can’t avoid it. Any woman voicing her opinion will be seen as controversial.”
Reem Al Hashimy
The public face of the UAE’s successful Expo 2020 bid last year, Reem Al Hashimy played a vital role in securing the global event for her home country.
Her speech during the UAE’s final presentation in Paris — which was delivered in both French and English — won plaudits for its portrayal of Dubai. “I stand before you representing the voice of millions in my country,” she said. “I stand before you not only as a civil servant, a daughter, a mother but also as a citizen of humanity committed and determined to make a difference and inspire change.”
Al Hashimy will certainly have her work cut out for her as the UAE counts down to the event in six years’ time. In addition to her role with the Expo, she has also been a Minister of State for the UAE since February 2008. Al Hashimy also manages the International Affairs Unit of the executive office of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai.
In addition, she also chairs Dubai Cares, a charity which aims to improve children’s access to primary education in poorer parts of the world. She has extensive international experience, beginning her career as commercial attaché and, subsequently, as deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of the UAE in Washington DC. In this capacity, Al Hashimy was closely involved in a broad spectrum of issues related to the UAE-US bilateral relationship, including security, trade, as well as economic and social issues.