In the face of adversity and tumultuous times, trailblazing Palestinian women continue to write their names in the annals of history. With unwavering determination and unparalleled courage, they have excelled in many fields, shattering stereotypes, and leaving an indelible mark on the Arab world. From politics to arts, activism to entrepreneurship, these remarkable women have fearlessly pursued their passions, transforming obstacles into stepping stones, and redefining the narrative of their homeland. Today, we pay tribute to these extraordinary women who have not only shaped the course of history but continue to inspire generations to come.
Hanan Ashrawi – Politician & Legislator
Hanan Ashrawi, a distinguished politician, legislator, and activist, stands tall as a symbol of resilience and leadership. A member of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process, starting with the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991, she played a pivotal role in shaping the future of her people. The first woman to hold a seat on the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the highest executive body in Palestine, she has displayed an unwavering dedication to the Palestinian cause and is a symbol of resilience and enlightened leadership. Her eloquence and unwavering dedication to justice have made her a prominent voice on the world stage, challenging the status quo and advocating for the rights of Palestinians. She has received a number of prestigious awards recognising her important work, including the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation, the Sydney Peace Prize, and the Olof Palme Prize.
Samia Halaby – Artist & Activist Samia Halaby, a Palestinian-American artist, activist, and scholar, is a true trailblazer in the world of contemporary abstract art. Throughout her prolific career, she has defied conventions and pushed the boundaries of artistic expression. Educated in the 1950s, when female abstract painters were often overlooked, Halaby embarked on a journey of bold experimentation and innovation. Drawing inspiration from nature and historical movements, she seamlessly blends Islamic geometry with modern painting, and has made important contributions to the global art world. Beyond the canvas, she is an educator who has introduced a groundbreaking studio art program and has made history as the first full-time female associate professor at the Yale School of Art. Through her art, Samia Halaby has become an icon of Palestinian resilience and empowerment, inspiring generations with her creativity and beautiful spirit.
Hind Khoury – Economist & Former Secretary General of Kairos Palestine
Hind Khoury, an esteemed economist and diplomat, embodies the unwavering spirit of determination. Her illustrious career has seen her serve as the Secretary General of Kairos Palestine, delegate general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in France, and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs. Tirelessly devoted to the development of occupied territories, Khoury’s contributions have been invaluable. Beyond her official roles, Khoury has made a significant impact as a board member of Sabeel-Jerusalem and currently serves on the board of Bethlehem Bible College. Through her leadership in international organisations, she has championed Palestinian rights on a global scale, paving the way for progress and fostering hope for a better future.
Joy Ajlouny – Entrepreneur & Investor
Joy Ajlouny, an extraordinary entrepreneur and investor, has shattered glass ceilings in the e-commerce and logistics industries. Her remarkable journey began with the founding of Fetchr, a Dubai-based company dedicated to solving the no-address challenge in emerging markets. This venture made history as the first startup in the Middle East to secure funding from a prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Fetchr’s innovative approach to logistics has earned widespread acclaim, with the company receiving numerous accolades. Notably, it was recognised as one of the World Economic Forum’s 100 Arab Start-ups Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2019. Joy Ajlouny’s relentless pursuit of innovation and her determination to overcome obstacles has set a new standard, empowering others to embrace the transformative power of entrepreneurship.
Maysoun Odeh – Journalist & Co-Founder of Nisaa FM
Maysoun Odeh, a passionate advocate for women’s empowerment, has revolutionised the media landscape in Palestine. Co-founding NISAA FM, the country’s first women’s radio station, Odeh has harnessed the power of media to promote gender equality and social change. Since its establishment in 2010, NISAA FM has been wholeheartedly dedicated to revolutionising the perception of women’s roles by illuminating their profound social engagements, remarkable achievements, and boundless creativity. Driven by an unwavering dedication to women’s concerns and armed with the power of media, Odeh has tirelessly laboured to enlighten and embolden Palestinians, fueling their pursuit of rights and self-empowerment. Her pioneering work continues to empower women and amplify their voices, making a lasting impact on Palestinian society.
Farah Nabulsi -Filmmaker & Human Rights Activist
Farah Nabulsi, a British-Palestinian filmmaker and human rights activist, has captivated audiences worldwide with her powerful storytelling. One of her extraordinary creations, The Present, opened the eyes of the global community to the unfathomable brutality of the Israeli occupation. Its profound impact was recognised with an Academy Award nomination and the esteemed BAFTA Award for Best Short Film. Before The Present, Nabulsi made three other captivating short films, including Today They Took My Son, which premiered at the Edmonton International Film Festival. Stirred by her passion, she went on to establish a production company, where she weaves together the threads of fiction, writing, producing, and directing films that delve into subjects close to her heart. Through her art, Farah Nabulsi challenges misconceptions and fosters an understanding of the Palestinian experience.
Sally Azar – First Palestinian Female Pastor
In a remarkable milestone, Sally Azar has shattered barriers and embarked on an extraordinary journey as the first female Palestinian pastor in the Holy Land. On January 22, 2023, she was ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, in a deeply significant ceremony held at the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. This groundbreaking achievement represents a moment of progress, inclusivity, and empowerment. The daughter of Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar, Sally Azar’s ordination carries the weight of a legacy rooted in faith and resilience. Her pioneering spirit and unwavering devotion provide a beacon of hope for others, encouraging them to challenge societal norms and embrace their true calling. Through her trailblazing journey, Sally Azar is reshaping the landscape of religious leadership in the Holy Land, leaving an indelible mark of inspiration and transformation.
Plestia Alaqad – Reporter & Journalist
At just 22 years old, Plestia Alaqad has emerged as a remarkable journalist and reporter, fearlessly navigating the tumultuous landscape of Gaza. Born and raised in this strife-ridden region, she intimately understands the harsh realities faced by her people. Armed with nothing more than her smartphone, she fearlessly exposes the widespread devastation, shedding light on the untold stories amidst the chaos. Despite facing personal tragedy, having been ousted from her home due to the bombings, Alaqad remains resolute in her mission to give voice to the silenced. With an impressive following list on Instagram, she has become a symbol of truth, resilience, and unwavering determination, bravely exposing the unvarnished reality of life in Gaza.
Pioneering Palestinian Women we Have Lost
May Ziadeh – Poet & Essayist
May Ziadeh, a Lebanese-Palestinian writer, poet, and essayist is considerd a trailblazer in the Arab literary world. Born in Nazareth, Palestine, she was raised in an intellectually and artistically vibrant environment. Her unwavering passion for literature propelled her rise as a prominent figure in the early 20th-century Arab literary scene. In 1912, Ziadeh established the renowned literary salon called the Tuesday Seminar, which quickly emerged as a pivotal gathering in the Arab literary landscape and attracted an array of celebrated literary figures, including Taha Hussein, Khalil Mutran, Ahmad Shawki, and other influential writers. Within the walls of the Tuesday Seminar, creative minds converged, fostering intellectual discussions, inspiring collaborations, and shaping the course of Arab literature during that era. Throughout, she actively championed women’s rights, advocating for educational opportunities for women across the Arab world. Her dedication to her craft and her commitment to advancing women’s rights left an enduring legacy, inspiring generations of writers and intellectuals.
Samira Abu Ghazaleh – The First Woman in the Palestinian National Council
Samira Abu Ghazaleh, a true Palestinian luminary, was a force for liberation. Her roles as a militant, writer, and university professor merged seamlessly, echoing her deep commitment to Palestine’s cause. With a pen in hand and a fire in her soul, Abu Ghazaleh fought for Palestine’s freedom, making history as the first woman to serve on the Palestinian National Council. From her earliest years, she rebelled against anything that curtailed her freedom. Completing her education in the heart of the struggle, she participated in the popular resistance against British forces and Zionist groups, defiantly walking out of class to confront the oppressors. Her influence extended far beyond the classroom, reaching the city of Cairo, where she worked for two decades in the Supreme Council for Arts and Literature, now the Supreme Council for Culture. That being said, her most significant contribution was the establishment of the Palestinian Women’s League in Cairo in April 1963, alongside other Palestinian women, creating and leading a united force for change.
Shireen Abu Akleh – Journalist & Reporter
Shireen Abu Akleh, a distinguished Palestinian-American journalist, fearlessly dedicated 25 years of her career to reporting the truth for Al Jazeera. Tragically, her life was prematurely cut short by an Israeli soldier’s fatal shot during her coverage of a raid by the Israeli army on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. Abu Akleh’s courageous reporting made her one of the Middle East’s most prominent names, a role model for countless Arab and Palestinian women. In her memory, the Egyptian National Council for Women established the Shireen Abu Akleh Award in October 2023 to honour Arab female media professionals for their outstanding contributions, ensuring that Abu Akleh’s legacy as a fearless journalist endures as a beacon of truth forever. During today’s heart-wrenching Israeli agression on the Palestinian people in Gaza, Abu Akleh’s famous quote, “Take a long breath, anf keep your morale high,” echoes as a reminder of her unstoppable commitment in the face of difficulties, providing a wellspring of hope and resilience to all.
Rim Banna – Singer & Activist
Rim Banna, a gifted singer and composer, harnessed the power of music to poignantly express the Palestinian narrative. Her creations, modern interpretations of traditional Palestinian songs and poetry, transcend the boundaries of mere entertainment. Drawing inspiration from folklore, poetry, children’s stories, and the unwavering struggle against occupation, Banna has become a lasting symbol of hope. Her mesmerising performances in Egypt and her active participation in numerous Arab and international festivals earned her accolades, including the prestigious Palestine Award for Singing in 2000 and the Ibn Rushd Award for Freedom of Thought in 2013. Her influence reached its pinnacle when she was named Person of the Year by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in 2016. Banna’s legacy, however, is not solely measured by accolades. Her timeless melodies, filled with the heartbeat of a nation, continue to inspire generations, even after her untimely passing in 2018 following a battle with breast cancer.