Role Models for Girls and Young Women in the Arab Region

Background and Rationale

As COVID-19 continues to affect lives and livelihoods around the world, the pandemic and its economic fallout are having a regressive effect on gender equality. The Arab region is no exception to this trend where women will undoubtedly bear disproportionate health risks and burdens in terms of worsening poverty, reduced economic opportunities, access to information and distance learning as well as and increased gender-based violence. The pandemic’s effect on gender equality is likely to reverberate through generations to come due to the unprecedented disruption to their education among girls and women. In this situation, championing female role models, and empowering the next generation of girls, has never been more important, by showing how they’ve been able to achieve success, and setting great examples for others.

The project aims to transform positively the stereotypes of women’s career choices among young women through the wide dissemination of 15 Arab women’s life stories as their role models in many professional areas and from different social categories to be influential in the Arab societies.

12 key areas for the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, where urgent action was needed to ensure greater equality and opportunities for women and men, girls and boys, primarily served to identify this research to focus on:

  1.  Women and poverty
  2. Education and Training of Women
  3. Women and health
  4. Violence against women
  5. Women and Armed Conflict
  6. Women and the Economy
  7. Women in power and decision-making
  8. Insufficient mechanisms for the advancement of women
  9. Human rights of women
  10. Women and the media
  11. Women and the environment
  12. The girl-child

UNESCO has programs in Education, Natural Science, Human and Social Sciences, Communication & Information, and Culture. Profiles in Sports and Art can be added.




The Asfari Institute has joined hands with FEMENA to organize a series of events about women in Afghanistan so that young Afghan students at the American University of Beirut could have a safe space to discuss their important issues related to:

  1. Life stories of Arab women as role models to be published in Arabic and in English
  2. Virtual launch event
  3. Capacity development of young researchers
  4. Social media campaign


Maha Jouini: Artificial Intelligence and Beyond

“What is life but a stance of glory” is a famous quote in Arabic sung by Julia Boutros that inspires Maha Jouini’s life choices. Maha is a Tunisian entrepreneur and author who fought against all odds that face North African women. She is the youngest of seven children and was raised by a mother who showed her the true meaning of struggling as a woman in the Arab region, bearing all social constructs. Her various interests pushed her to lead a life of a multi-skilled woman whose ambitions have no limits as long as hard work is put into achieving them. Maha’s diverse background did not make her choices easy but nothing stopped her growth.

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Lina Khalifeh: Fight for it

Growing up in Jordan, Lina Khalifeh was no stranger to violence against women in her society and her family. It had always upset her that there were no laws to protect women and that these women could not stand up for themselves. This all culminated in a moment during her time at university when one of her friends arrived on campus with severe bruises on her face, having been abused by her father and her brother. Lina was rightfully angry and wanted to do something about it. She had already built a background in martial arts, and she decided to pass on her knowledge and training to other women to teach them how to stand up for themselves and become confident and empowered. She wanted to create a platform where women could enhance their skills and stand up to injustice.

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Erica Chbeir: The Sky is the Limit

Erica Chbeir spent her childhood playing plane simulators with her younger brother and looking up to her pilot uncle, but she had never imagined that she would become a pilot when she grew up. She ended up pursuing a degree in dentistry from the Lebanese University, a field she deeply enjoyed. However, during her fifth and final senior year of dentistry school, her father sent her a post that Middle East Airlines (MEA) were recruiting pilots to join their team. Erica immediately jumped on the opportunity and applied to begin her training.

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مها الجويني: ما يفوق الذكاء الإصطناعي

ما الحياة إلا وقفة عزّ” هو اقتباس شهير باللغة العربية غنته جوليا بطرس، وهو يلهم خيارات حياة مها الجويني. مها رائدة أعمال وكاتبة تونسية كافحت كل الصعاب التي تواجه نساء شمال إفريقيا. هي الأصغر بين سبعة أطفال، ترعرعت على يد أم أوضحت لها المعنى الحقيقي للمعاناة كامرأة في المنطقة العربية، وتحمّل ثقل كل البنى الاجتماعية. دفعتها اهتماماتها المتنوعة إلى أن تعيش حياة امرأة متعددة المهارات لا حدود لطموحاتها ما دامت تعمل جاهدةً لتحقيقها. لم تجعل خلفية مها المتنوعة خياراتها سهلة، ولكن شيئًا لم يقف في طريق نموّها.

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لينا خليفة: حاربي من أجل ما تريدين

نشأت لينا خليفة في الأردن، حيث لم تكن مشاهد العنف ضد المرأة بغريبة عن مجتمعها وعن عائلتها. ولطالما كان يثير استياءها عدم وجود قوانين تحمي المرأة، وعدم قدرة المرأة على الدفاع عن نفسها. وقد بلغ ذلك حدّه بالنسبة إليها في لحظة واحدة أثناء تواجدها في الجامعة، حيث وصلت إحدى صديقاتها وبها كدماتٌ شديدة على وجهها، بعد أن تعرّضت للإيذاء من قبل والدها وشقيقها. هذا المشهد أغضب لينا كثيرًا، وأرادت أن تفعل شيئًا حيال ذلك. كانت لينا قد راكمت خبرةً في فنون الدفاع عن النفس، فقررت نقل معرفتها وتدريباتها إلى نساء أخريات بهدف أن يصبحن نساءً ممكّناتٍ، وواثقاتٍ من ذواتهنّ، وقادراتٍ على الدفاع عن أنفسهنّ. لقد أرادت أن تنشئ منصةً تستطيع النساء من خلالها تعزيز مهاراتهنّ والتصدي للظلم الذي يتعرضن له.

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إريكا شبير: طموحٌ بلا حدود

قضت إريكا طفولتها وهي تلعب بمحاكيات الطيران مع إخوانها الأصغر سنًّا وهي تتطلّع إلى عمّها كابتن الطيران.ولكن لم يتبادر إلى ذهنها قط أنّها قد تصبح كابتن طيران عندما تكبر. انتهى بها المطاف في دراسة طب الأسنان وهو اختصاصٌ تحبه كثيرًا. بعد ذلك، وخلال دراستها في السنة الخامسة والأخيرة في كلية طب الأسنان، أرسل لها والدها على حين غِرّة منشورًا لشركة طيران الشرق الأوسط (MEA) يتضمّن إعلان توظيف للإنضمام إلى فريقهم. بالطبّع، انتهزت إريكا هذه الفرصة وقدّمت طلبًا للشّروع بالتّدريب.

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Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship

American University of Beirut


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Riad El Solh, ​1107 2020
Beirut, Lebanon

Tel: +961-1-350000 EXT. 4469


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