Today, women are carving out a niche for themselves


Saudi Gazette report

MARCH 8 is a date that celebrates women across the world and their achievements in economic, political, and social arenas.

The day highlights the role women have played in the betterment of communities and societies and continues to bring attention to the many challenging issues.

Governments across the region are making significant progress in empowering and expanding the rights of women every year. Today, Arab women are emerging at local and international levels and assuming leadership positions which were previously limited to men. These successes are due to the perseverance and determination built up across generations of women to be a part of every aspect of society and at the highest level.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we capture, through the iPhone lens, photos of inspirational female figures across the region and the stories of their remarkable achievements in the community they live in.

Saudi director and actress, Ahd Kamel

Ahd Kamel is a woman of many talents. She is a renowned actress, writer, and director playing all three roles exceptionally well.

“It all started by chance. In 2004 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animation and communication design but I knew then that I didn’t want to be an animator. I also wasn’t ready to move back to Saudi Arabia. So instead I enrolled in a film school and it was love at first sight! I always say that cinema found me, not the other way around.”

“I began working on short films, be it acting, directing, producing, whatever I could do to learn and bring a story to life. I was fortunate that the films I worked on were screened and recognized at international film festivals. That opened many doors for me.” She continued: “One of my main achievements todate is landing the role of Fatima in the BBC Netflix mini series Collateral and being nominated for the Golden Bear award for the short film, Sanctity."

On the occasion of International Women's Day, Ahd said, “Plenty of women have inspired me to be the person I am today. The most influential one being my grandmother, Sarah. We still don’t know how old she is but like a tree she’s been around and seen it all.” She continued, “After my grandfather’s death she started an atelier for women and introduced her arts and crafts to Jeddah’s social scene. She may have been petite, 4’8” in fact, but she is packed with potent power and raised me to be the same.”

“Women’s day reminds us of our accomplishments which we should actually celebrate on a daily basis” she said. “I like to be the change I want to see, and that’s the most empowering way to support women. By continuing to do what I do and following my heart, I hope to lead by example.”

Omani professional tennis

player, Fatma Alnabhani

“All I knew since I was a little kid that this game runs in my blood. No one forced me to play tennis, I just fell in love with it. I never knew that I might be able to take it on professionally but I was dedicated for the love of the game. Doing anything else was just never an option for me,” says Oman’s top female tennis player, Fatma Alnabhani.

Describing her sojourn to become a professional tennis player, Fatma mentions: “When I was growing up, the notion of an Arab girl aspiring to be a professional athlete was unheard of. Practice after practice and victory after victory, perceptions slowly started to shift in favor of me taking on the sport professionally.” She continued “Today, the Middle East is not only accepting, but also supportive of its female athletes.”

For International Women’s Day, Fatma commented, “We are hearing more and more stories of fearless Arab women who are an inspiration to their families, friends, and country. These women have taught me and the upcoming generation to be bold and transform difficulties to opportunities that need to be tackled. It is empowering.”

Emirati poet and horseback

rider, Mezna Alameri

Mezna Alameri is a rising star in the realm of poetry and horseback riding. In a time where the younger generations are at a loss for words, she brings back the linkage between Arab heritage and literature.

"I discovered my passion for Arabic poetry when I was only seven years old. Listening to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum’s poetry planted a seed within me and inspired me to follow that path,” she said. “My passion for poetry then led me to the equestrian sport. And now, I write and give poetry readings for the love of both, arts and sports.”

She added, “For International Women’s Day, I’d like to take a moment to celebrate my mother who has been my pillar of strength and motivation. She is my number one fan and I am hers.” She concluded, “I would also like to reflect on the choices I’ve made to make sure I am also setting a good example for the young Arab girls who are inspired by my journey. To them I say, believe in yourself, stay brave and work hard to become the best version of yourself so you can be a positive role model for other women and the wider society you live in.”

Youngest Emirati astronaut

candidate, Dana Alblooshi

Dana is the youngest Emirati astronaut candidate holding several certificates in the field of aeronautics and space administration at NASA. The 9-year old 'whizkid', completed ground-based, air-based, and naval training courses in space and rocket science, and received two gold medals for her excellence.

When it comes to ambition, Dana believes ‘the sky is the limit’, quite literally. She said, “I remember watching documentaries about space with such awe and curiosity. I’m very lucky to have found my dream and pursued it at an early age.”

Dana highlighted, “What pushed me forward came from my determination but also from the support of the women I’ve looked up to, with the most important one being my mother.” She added, “I’m proud of the accomplishments achieved by Arab women over the past decade. I am more proud of the mothers who have taught their daughters to be innovators, creators, fighters, and contributors to their community, like mine has.” — SG