On March 8, people across the world celebrate International Women’s Day. This day is commemorated globally to honor the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Qatar Foundation (QF) was co-founded by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser; Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani is its Vice Chairperson and CEO.
Across QF’s various centers, women are at the helm and the forefront. As of last year, the student body across all our universities is 63 percent female. Across QF, women make an impact, both on a local and international scale, on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s through leadership roles, groundbreaking research projects, or humanitarian initiatives, the scope of work that women engage in is diverse.
Here are five QF women who are making an impact:
1. Dr. Amina Hussain:
Dr. Hussain completed the pre-medical program at QF partner university Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q) in 2009. In 2012, she was the first Qatari woman to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She graduated from WCM-Q in 2017 and received the Award for the Best Trainee Physician, where she stressed the need to develop clinical research in Qatar, especially as the country has the potential and the ability to make a difference in this field. Over the course of her academic journey, she has completed internships and training, and a residency program in pediatrics, and has also participated in international conferences. Dr. Hussain received a special scholarship from HE Sheikha Hind to pursue a Master’s program in Public Health at John Hopkins University. She aims to specialize in pediatrics, specifically emergency cases, in order to help save more children’s lives. She also hopes to contribute in developing the field of clinical research in Qatar.
“I faced a challenge as the first Qatari woman to travel abroad to study medicine, but I overcame all the challenges and became a role model to others, and encouraged other female students to do the same.”
2. Dr. Abeer Al-Shammari:
Dr. Al-Shammari obtained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Oxford in the UK. She currently works as a Research Fellow in Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), part of QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University.
Dr. Al-Shammari recently won the Education Excellence Award in Qatar, which is one of her greatest and proudest achievements to date. For doctoral candidates, a high-quality original publication from their doctoral work in an international, peer-reviewed journal that is specialized in a particular field of research is required, in addition to other criteria. She explained that, once she had completed high school, the opportunities for studying biomedical science and research in Qatar were, at the time, limited. She considered studying abroad, and while she had her family’s full support, she faced some societal criticisms for this. However, she said that this perception has shifted and now there are many opportunities for conducting science and research in Qatar that are competitive on an international level, so there is no need to study abroad.
“In Qatar, we have equal opportunities for men and women to do science and research, from academic training up to career opportunities and development. I advise all women to believe in themselves and not to lose their confidence on what they can achieve. There are many stories of successful women, and if these women were able to achieve their dreams, you can also do the same or even more. Dream big, work hard and you will make it.”
3. AJ Al Thani:
Currently majoring in Media Industries and Technology at QF partner university Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), Al Thani plans on continuing on her path as a filmmaker and opening a multimedia production company once she graduates. Her interest, though. lies in being a storyteller more than being just a filmmaker, and she hopes to achieve this through film, television and video games.
Al Thani says that female filmmakers in Qatar have many more privileges than those in other places around the world, particularly Hollywood. She aims to break the stereotypes surrounding being a female filmmaker, believing that people do not completely see female filmmakers as artists. Al Thani says that she is still forming her identity and creating her own voice, and that being a female is one of those voices, but at the same time it is not everything about her.
“I would tell women that people love to see what other people are passionate about. If you have something that you want to share it with the world, then get up and do it. The world is only more beautiful when all of our voices are heard.”
4. Dana Al-Anzy:
A Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) graduate, who majored in Culture and Politics at the QF partner university, Al-Anzy currently works at the Education Above All Foundation (EAA) as a Policy and Research Specialist with a focus on Advocacy. Al-Anzy is a two-time winner of the Education Excellence Award, and says these accolades are her greatest academic achievements and proudest moments. While studying at GU-Q, Al-Anzy was one of the first Qatari women to climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds to build and renovate schools in Gaza as part of Reach Out to Asia’s ‘Elevate to Educate’ expedition. She is also a United Nations (UN) Youth Assembly Ambassador.
Al-Anzy believes that women, both in Qatar and around the world, face their own set of challenges, both culturally and career-wise. She said that women are forced to abide by a certain standard of stereotypes and societal expectations, which is limiting in regards to identity and career development. However, she said that women have to keep pushing past the glass ceiling with all their might and intellect. Al-Anzy shared that she created her own opportunities and did not allow the fear of failure to hold her back. With the support of family, close friends and colleagues, she paved her own path.
“If you are hesitant in pursuing your dreams, then you must know that the greatest obstacle to your own success is yourself, you can overcome everything else. Align yourself with your dreams and passions first, and release yourself from the fears holding you back. Become your own support system, and friends and other people will support and believe in you. Above all, ensure your intentions are pure and good in serving your community and others, to be blessed on your journey.”
5. Muna Al-Asmakh:
Qatar Academy Doha (QAD) twelfth-grader Muna Al-Asmakh already has many accolades under her belt. Her achievements include a high honors GPA; a leadership role in the Model United Nations; winning various programs and competitions; a two-time nomination for the Education Excellence Award; and an acceptance into Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. However, her most noteworthy project is her Malaria Prevention Kits.
Al-Asmakh said that she was concerned by the number of children who suffer from malaria, which is why her project is aimed at children. She decided to design and execute a children’s booth at the Torba Farmers Market where children could design a house, paint ceramics, and participate in arts and crafts activities. The money earned from her participation in Torba would go towards purchasing insecticide-treated nets for Uganda. In 12 hours, she raised QR 11,442.
Al-Asmakh believes her high school experience at QF has made her feel like an “iron-woman” - stronger in terms of her personality and abilities. She said that she is part of an environment that empowers and encourages her to work beyond her potential; that the QF community provides opportunities for young females to become future leaders.
“Not knowing your future plans or where life takes you is OK. You will grow up and change, decide on something new every day, and that’s perfectly fine. Not knowing doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. I think that persistence is the key, even when your grades drop or when a university rejects you. The key to succeeding in life isn’t having a plan for your future by the time you’re just into your teens, it’s more about adapting to the changes in your life and about being brilliant everywhere you go!”
Gender balance is something we’re working toward all around the world. What are some of the ways we can contribute towards a #BalanceForBetter?