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When asked to describe a Middle Eastern woman, often times the image is of a veiled, submissive, shy and helpless one. Well, I am a woman who was born and raised in the Middle East, and I can assure you that this image is truly far from reality. I am Muslim but not veiled, I am respectful but never submissive, I am certainly not shy, and the feeling of helplessness was never an obstacle but a motivation that pushed me to pursue and achieve my dreams. I can also assure you that I am not the exception. The Middle East is crowded with highly accomplished, strong, and determined women. The Middle Eastern women who constituted the Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program 2012 are a perfect representation of this population. The group could not be more diverse academically, professionally, religiously, socially and economically. Yet, they are all highly accomplished in their respective fields, and are all committed to developing their country despite the countless challenges they face. There is no denying that Arab women, Muslim and Christian, have faced and continue to face enormous challenges. But, if we are to conduct a productive discussion about women of the region and come up with helpful strategies of empowerment, it is crucial to avoid falling into the trap of generalization. There is a great female population in the Middle East that is contributing significantly to the betterment of their communities, and who continue to challenge the cultural, political and economic boundaries. These women are the true catalysts of change, and role models for young women in the region. In our pursuit to empower this population, it is detrimental to feed the narrative of victimization. Instead, we must acknowledge their significant work and countless accomplishments, and focus our energy on providing these women with the support and opportunities to help them reach their full potential. While telling the stories of suffering and injustice are of great value in the efforts to combating them, it is equally important to highlight the stories of triumph and accomplishment. The Women's Initiative will proudly spotlight the achievements of the Women's Initiative Fellows in subsequent blogs to showcase these strong women, highlight their progress, and illustrate the impact of the program. It is time to change the narrative about the Middle Eastern woman, and it is time to give her the credit she deserves. Because with that, we will not only help reflect a realistic image of her strength and true potential, but will also provide her with the type of support that she might be lacking in her country, and among her people. This post was written by Doaa Mansour, Program Coordinator for the Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program at the George W. Bush Institute.
What’s Happening in Afghanistan?
While there have been tremendous gains in Afghanistan, lack of security threatens these gains daily.
Q&A with Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan
Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi is a member of the national assembly of Afghanistan. She represents Badakhshan province in the Wolesi Jirga (house of representatives). Her story is one of survival, pursuit of dreams, and dedication to women’s well-being and health. Here, Dr. Ibrahimi shares her thoughts on the current state of Afghan women’s empowerment, the challenges women face in achieving equal rights, and the impact women have on the country’s long-term peace, security, and prosperity.
In Case You Missed It: The Breadwinner, an animated film about the strength and resilience of Afghan women and girls, premieres in the U.S.
The Breadwinner, a new animated film from executive producer Angelina Jolie, tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family. With dauntless perseverance, Parvana draws strength from the stories her father told her, and ultimately risks her life to discover if he is still alive. The Breadwinner is an inspiring reminder of the power of stories, and their potential to unite and heal us all. It also provides an important spotlight on the struggle endured by Afghan families during the Taliban regime and the resilience of women and girls and their influence in building a brighter future for Afghanistan. Last year, the Bush Institute released We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, which spotlights more of these courageous stories of Afghan women. Learn more about the book and our work by visiting:&nb