By Sari Salti
Last month, we celebrated International Women’s Day in remembrance of the profound achievements of women in the past, as well as paving the way for a future of equality and gender parity. In light of this memorable event, I would like to share with you my list of women who have, in some way or another, inspired and enlightened me. The list is in no particular order; it is essentially a group of women who have earned my admiration.
Who else? As the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize, Malala’s well-documented rise to fame has left many in awe, including myself. I first became aware of her plight soon after she was announced Nobel Prize laureate in 2014, and from then on, every bit more I read about her, the more I became dumbfounded by her persistence and activism.
To even think that this woman is my age feels astonishing, yet quite frightening at the same time. Her advocacy for female empowerment and inclusion in education deeply resonates with me and has clearly proved to be influential to people around the world.
A bit closer to home, Queen Rania of Jordan is quite the mesmerising figure in my home country of Jordan, due to her diligence and dedication to humanitarian and gender issues. Although, it is quite saddening to realise that she is known to the world as ‘The Hot Queen’, she is not limited to her looks. With Queen Rania’s progressiveness regarding issues such as gender equality and empowerment (as well as being quite the social media butterfly), it’s no wonder she is so popular with the youth!
Her high regard for a global education and dialogue between different cultures and faiths makes Queen Rania stand out as a true 21st century woman.
Maya Angelou lived 86 years before her unfortunate death in 2014, however what she has left behind is a lifetime of activism that spanned decades, and an extensive body of literature that is indeed heart-warming and eye-opening. A Jill-of-all-trades in the literary world, her works include seven autobiographies, hundreds of poems, and a collection of intricate essays, a favourite of mine being; “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now”. The intimacy of her autobiographies challenged the stigma faced by African-Americans, especially women, in that regard; Angelou’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement has earned her praise and recognition worldwide. Simply reading her essays left me in awe of her profound wisdom and courage, and that is why she is oft recognised as an inspiration.
Not your common household name, however this woman should most suitably be introduced as the ‘Most Powerful Arab Woman’, as per Forbes. Rajaa is the managing director at Easa Saleh Al-Gurg Group LLC (ESAG), and she has cultivated her stance as a successful female entrepreneur in the Arab World. She has been vocal in her push for feminism and women in business, as well as the growth in the number of female entrepreneurs. Her success in ESAG speaks for itself, as the company now has partnerships and associations with 24 businesses and up to 370 brand names, internationally.
It’s always uplifting to see a woman like Rajaa enjoy success in a field which is stereotypically masculine, and her influence is likely to motivate more women to heed her path.
Definitely one of the more outspoken women in this list, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a staunch supporter of women’s rights, and leads the opposition against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). A proud and proclaimed atheist, Ayaan divides opinion when it comes to her criticism of Islam, her former religion, as she especially pinpoints the oppressive treatment of women in some Muslim countries. Her critique of Islam stems from her early childhood experiences in Somalia, where she was a victim of FGM at the age of five. After moving to The Netherlands her affiliation with Islam ended and thus began her career in politics and writing.
While some may not necessarily agree with her stance on Islam, one aspect I hold a deep respect for, is her persistence in fighting for the plight of women, particularly, FGM victims.
By now, most of the world would definitely have seen her face on social media; Dena Takruri, presenter at AJ+, has taken the world by storm thanks to her authentic reporting and coverage of pressing issues. AJ+, or Al-Jazeera Plus, is one of the fastest growing news outlets thanks to their unorthodox way of reporting and discussion of current events, which is done exclusively through social media applications. And the poster girl for this has been Dena, whose professional delivery in each new report is outstanding. She is also distinguished for achieving success as an Arab-American woman.
Her reporting on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the 2016 Presidential Election, is what led me to view her as a role model for my future career.
While on the topic of pertinent issues, the US 2016 Presidential Election has been well underway for a while now, however one person I had been hoping to see in the candidates list is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. A deeply intelligent person, Warren has repeatedly been a voice of reason in a hectic, and quite comedic, presidential race; repeatedly offering her insight on issues such as corporate lobbying and voter’s rights. Her message clearly mirrors that of Democratic Nominee hopeful Bernie Sanders, who surprisingly, has not been endorsed by Warren. Yet she remains a clear hallmark of intellectualism in a US Congress that now more resembles a clown party than a governing body.
Lastly, a selection that is a true crowd-pleaser: Emma Watson. Famous for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, and even more so adored on the Internet for her beauty, Watson has managed to go one step further and try her hand in activism after being appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. The role she has played in advocating for Women’s rights is a special one, as she has formally extended an invitation for men to be included in the dialogue regarding feminism. Her soft-spoken, yet eloquent, deliverance of a proportionally important speech in front of thousands remains a defining moment for gender equality.
My name is Sari Salti and I’m a first year international student at the University of Kent. I was born and raised in Jordan but I can trace my ancestry back to Palestine, where both sets of my grandparents were born. Here, I study Business Administration with high hopes of going into communications, media, and journalism in the future (forgive me for being overly-optimistic, I’m still 18!).
My main interest when it comes to writing are typically politics and current events, feminist issues worldwide, and of course football.
So far I’m loving Canterbury; High Street is wonderfully vibrant and authentic and I am enamoured by the staggering beauty of the Cathedral, which I can quite literally see from almost any point in the city.