7 Arab Women Entrepreneurs You Should Follow
Influential, charismatic and entrepreneurs, these are the women who are changing the face of the Middle East, from Morocco to Bahrain.
1. Heather Henyon – @BalCap
The founder and managing partner of microinvestment firm Balthazar Capital, Heather recently founded the Women’s Angel Investment Network (WAIN), the first women’s angel investment group in the Middle East which supports women entrepreneurs through a unique collaborative investment process.
She also sowed the seeds of Grameen-Jameel, a social business jointly owned by Grameen Foundation and Abdul Latif Jameel Group. Under her leadership, the entity created microfinance institutions in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
2. Muna AbuSulayman – @MunaAbuSulayman
Influential and worldly recognized, Muna has become the voice of Arab women in the Middle East. She’s co-host of one of MBC TV’s most popular social programs, Kalam Nawaem (“Speech of the Soft”) and former director of Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation.
Recognized by her passion to build bridges between the East and the West, and appointed Young Leader by the World Economic Forum and Goodwill Ambassador by the UN, Muna has actively striven to unravel the stereotypes of what it means to be a modern Muslim woman. She is also a board member of the Muslim Women’s Fund (MWF) and Soliya, an organization devoted to improving communications between East and West through university education.
3. Nadia Roumani – @NadiaRoumani
In Nadia’s world, actions seem to speak louder than words. Her record includes launching the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum, the Global Policy Innovations Program at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, as well as the International Network of Foundations with the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
She not only worked with global institutions but also prioritized change at the grassroots level. In 2008, she co-launched the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, which helps young Muslim non-profit executives and public officials realize their full potential to foster healthy and engaged communities.
4. Amira Salah – @Amira_salah
Amira is the co-founder of Kherna, a social networking platform for organizations devoted to good causes which won in World Summit Youth Award 2011 in “Fight Poverty, Hunger and Disease”.
Conceived through a contest by the Egyptian NGO incubator Nahdet Elmahrousa, her enterprise Kherna blends charity and development with social media, providing NGOs with affordable communication channels as an alternative to traditional marketing.
5. Amani El Tunsi – @amanieltunsi
In a country where women’s struggle against taboos is a daily task, Amani El Tunsi creates spaces for dialogue. Her platform Banat wa Bas helps Egyptian women discuss and navigate challenges such as marriage, spinsterhood, and sexual harassment, while receiving feedback and positive reinforcement.
An Ashoka fellow and a proud Egyptian, Amani launched the platform in 2008 to help women prosper by providing them with the knowledge and resources to gain control over their lives. It includes a website, a radio station, a rehabilitation center, a publishing house and a program to prepare women to enter the workforce in media and communications.
6. Wafa al-Zerrouki
Dreaming of transforming the lives of rural women in Morocco, Wafa al-Zerrouki established the Wafa Association of Artisan Women in 2003. Her program has creeated powerful network of women by providing them with the resources, opportunities and confidence to make life-changing decisions. Her work has already spread beyond Egypt throughout the MENA region.
By encouraging artisan women to form cooperatives based on their expertise in traditional high-quality handicrafts such as carper-weaving, the Wafa Association has helped women improve their livelihoods and economic status.
7. Esra’a Al Shafei – @ealshafei
Awarded by Forbes as one of the Top 30 Entrepreneurs under 30, Esra’a is a Bahraini civil rights activist, blogger, and the founder and executive director of Mideast Youth. Through her online forum, she amplifies the voices of dissent in the Middle East and North Africa.
A passionate for social justice and a proud Egyptian, Esra’a created a forum which is broadly inclusive: apart from building web and mobile applications, the company also runs an online platform for activist musicians (mideastunes.com) and a communication tool aimed at Arabic LGBT youth, called Ahwaa.org . Mideast Youth also runs CrowdVoice.org, an open source service that curates eyewitness photos, videos, data, and reports on protests.