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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 28 February 2021

Middle Eastern women feature on the BBC’s most influential list

Broadcaster applauds women who navigated coronavirus pandemic

Women from the Middle East and North Africa feature prominently on the BBC’s list of the 100 most influential women of 2020.

Among the women from the region celebrated for “leading change and making a difference” are British-Iraqi public health expert Dr Nisreen Alwan and Lebanese human rights activist Hayat Mirshad.

The head of the UAE’s space programme, Sarah Al Amiri, is also on the list. You can read about her career and the programme here.

The BBC said the list was compiled with a focus on female scientists and healthcare workers who led the way during the coronavirus pandemic.

The broadcaster said the work of Dr Alwan, a public health consultant at the University of Southampton, was vital to understanding the effects of “long Covid”.

People with long Covid report ongoing symptoms such as fatigue, headache and shortness of breath after their bodies appear to have cleared the virus.

Dr Alwan said appearing on the list was a “huge honour”.

She spoke of how she approached a challenging year: “During 2020, I did three things more: speak my mind; do what I fear; and forgive myself. I also did three things less: care what others think of me; blame myself; and believe I’m less than others.”

The broadcaster also praised Ms Mirshad for being “unapologetic and uncompromising” in helping young women.

Lebanese activist Hayat Mirshad.
Lebanese activist Hayat Mirshad.

Ms Mirshad is the founder of feminist group Fe-Male, which aims to “eliminate injustice” by “campaigning together against discriminatory norms and policies”.

“Hayat’s mission is to ensure girls and women have access to justice, information, protection and human rights,” the BBC said.

“She continues to spread her message through various platforms by organising nationwide marches, and rallying the masses to challenge corrupt, patriarchal regimes and demand change.”

Two Syrian women made the list – the filmmaker Waad Al Kateab and plant virologist Safaa Kuman.

Others include the Egyptian Coptic nun Maggie Gobran and campaigner Nadeen Ashraf, also from Egypt.

Pardis Sabeti, from Iran, and Yemeni microgrid manager Iman Ghaleb Al Hamli made the list for their contributions to technology.

Syrian filmmaker Waad Al Kateab. Getty Images
Syrian filmmaker Waad Al Kateab. Getty Images

Moroccan rapper Housa Abouz is featured for using her “music as a tool for change” in a male-dominated industry.

Among the more well-known names on the list are Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, actress Michelle Yeoh, the star of the new Avatar and Marvel films, and Briton Sarah Gilbert, who heads the University of Oxford’s research into a coronavirus vaccine, as well as climate activist and actress Jane Fonda.

Updated: November 24, 2020 10:17 PM

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