Women, particularly Arab women, may have always come off as culturally and traditionally deep-rooted in a patriarchal and male-dominated society while concealing themselves elegantly in an Abaya. However, on this day and age, Emirati women are breaking boundaries and even spearheading women’s contributions in the Arab world and the international scene. From Business and Entrepreneurship to Social Affairs and Law, Sports and Fashion to Film and Literature – these women are influential in their chosen fields. We have rounded up ten inspiring Emirati women changing the game in their own arenas and whom you should be following one Instagram post at a time:
Amina Taher – Vice President Brand and Marketing, Etihad Airways
Amina Taher is a successful businesswoman in the Aviation industry leading the national carrier of Abu Dhabi. Harvard and London Business School-educated Amina is the Vice President of Brand and Marketing of Etihad Airways. She is encouraging women to climb the corporate ladder and envisions women to take up more space in executive levels and on boards. This is translated in her passion to mentoring Emirati entrepreneurs. Amina’s advice to young girls is to seize every opportunity, be passionate about what you do, believe in yourself – and the rest will come naturally.
Follow her: @aminataher
Amna Al Owais – Chief Registrar, DIFC Courts
The Emirati lawyer is the chief executive and registrar of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts since 2017. She first joined the DIFC Courts in 2006 and was a practicing lawyer at the litigation department with UAE law firm Hadef & Partners. Amna played a major role in the DIFC Courts particularly in the induction of the Pro-Bono programme, a first of its kind in the Middle East. She is also a supporter of women’s progress in the UAE and a member of the Consulting Council of the University of Sharjah College of Law. In her very own right, Amna has been named as one of the most influential women in the Arab world.
Follow her work: @difccourts
HE Noura Al Kaabi – UAE Minister, Culture and Knowledge Development
Noura Al Kaabi is the appointed UAE Minister of Culture and Development Knowledge in 2017. She is responsible for promoting all UAE Cultural fields on both national and international level. She also supports and sponsors young homegrown talent bringing to the world the best UAE has to offer. Her Excellency is also the Chairwoman of the Media Zone – Abu Dhabi, the hub of media and entertainment in Abu Dhabi. Noura’s priorities in her field are bridging the AI-Cultural gap and adopting leadership systems.
Follow her: @nak
Nadia Khalil Al Sayegh – UAE Ministry of Social Affairs
Nadia, or also lovingly called “Mama” by the children and people with determination whom she supports. Nadia has always had the heart for nurturing children with special needs and creating an environment with educational and rehabilitative programmes that would hone their skills and abilities. Her social work and activities were supported by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum through gifting her the Senses Residential and Day Care Centre for Special Needs. The Senses Residential Day Care Centre is formed by the employees of the Ministry of Social Affair, and it is the first and only non-profit and residential daycare facility of its kind. Nadia says that the title of Mama is the proudest achievement she could have ever have.
Follow her cause: @sensesforspecialneeds
Zahra Lari – First Arab figure skater
Zahra is a 24-year old Emirati champion figure skater and the first “hijabi” athlete in the sport. As a young athlete, she spearheaded female representation in figure skating from the Arab world. Being the pioneer Arab figure skater and placing UAE as the first Arab state to join the International Skating Union, over 100 Emirati women have now followed her league. Not only did she open the doors to figure skating for Arab women, but she also began a movement for women wearing a Hijab, after being deducted an “outfit violation” in one of her international figure skating competitions. Her campaign has since then received support from a major sports clothing brand championing women with headscarves. Zahra still dreams to represent the UAE in next Winter Olympics, to be held in Beijing 2022.
Follow her: @zahralari
Amna Al Haddad – Former Journalist and Emirati Olympic Weightlifting Champion
Amna is known to be the first Emirati Olympic Weightlifting Champion and the first from the Gulf doing so wearing a Hijab. Prior to her athletic career, Amna was a full-time journalist at The National – Abu Dhabi maintaining a health and fitness blog. In 2012, she decided to turn her passion into a career representing the UAE weightlifting team in various international competitions. Amna is not only an Olympic weightlifting champion but also a motivational speaker, mental health advocate and writer.
Follow her: amna.s.alhaddad
Huda Al Nuaimi – Fashion Designer
Emirati designer and founder of the namesake brand has made a name in the high-fashion design industry bringing the best of UAE to the world. Huda has always been proud of her mixed-race background, being brought up in Dubai by her Emirati father while also studying in London to be with her Spanish-Scottish mother. Huda first started designing New Age abayas for women. Her dream of having her own clothing line with ready to wear fashion pieces and statement accessories are characterized by luxe textiles. She is proud of clothes and items made in the UAE and says they are as good as the ones made in Italy.
Follow her: huda_al_nuaimi
Hamda Al Fahim – AUH-based Fashion Designer
UAE designer Hamda Al Fahim graduated Interior Design from the College of Art Science. But her passion always lay in Fashion. Hamda is now a fashion designer who specializes in glamorous evening wear. Her designs infuse western and eastern influences which create her signature sultry style. Her famous canary-yellow gown even made it to the red carpet at Cannes!
Follow her: @hamdaalfahim
Nayla Al Khaja – Film Director and Producer
Nayla is a bold and brave Emirati Film Director and Producer. The films she has been producing are advocating women and touching on sensitive topics such as child abuse and arranged marriages, a taboo to even open up about. She has won several awards and continues to develop the local film industry and promote women in cinema.
Follow her: @naylaalkhaja
Ahlam Bolooki – Director, Emirates Festival of Literature
Ahlam is a female leader in her own right. Before taking on the role of Director of Emirates Festival of Literature in 2019, Ahlam has already been working hard behind-the-scenes managing different youth programs and marketing know-how. Prior to her new role, she was the Head of Dubai Tourism’s regional campaigns. Ahlam understands the taste and the ins and outs of the young audience.
Follow her: @ahlambolooki
These women, and more, have found their own voice in the greater scheme of things and are influential about their passions. They have proven that you can take in the tradition along with your passion without any restriction.