American Univesity of Beirut

Do you know these women?

​​​October 29​​, 2021​

Arab women who persisted until the establishment recognized their innovative thinking, who fought for an education, participated in demonstrations, organized political movements, changed their worlds—these are the subjects of the Arab Wo​men Pioneers and Leaders website recently housed at the AUB libraries.

You can read about the first Muslim woman to graduate from AUB, the first Egyptian woman to fly solo from Cairo to Alexandria, the first Lebanese woman to study medicine abroad, and the first Moroccan to set foot on Antarctica. Fifty-seven in all, they make up the Arab female pioneers. Also included are 97 Arab female leaders and 71 civil society organizations that advocate for reform and change.

The project was initiated by May Rihani (BA '68), when she was the Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland. Having moved on, Rihani wanted to make sure the Pioneers and Leaders Hub, originally launched in 2019, will continue to fill a void. “There is

no other place where you can go and find this type of information about women from fifteen Arab countries," she says.

“This is a dynamic encyclopedia," Rihani continues. “It can't sit quietly somewhere but needs to be updated and expanded. A university is the perfect place for it to reside, where researchers, students, and professors can curate the information for the society at large."

Rihani says that in the website's first few years, web analytics showed people from over seventy countries searching the material, with the most popular searches being for the pioneers. Clicks and readers came from Lebanon, the United States, Morocco, Jordan, France, Germany, and China among many, many other countries. The information has been used by researchers, university classes, and as the subject of a short movie called “They Dared." ​

AUB is proud to now host the hub at its libraries. A collaboration among the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Center of Inclusive Business and Leadership for Women (CIBL) and the Gender Initiative at AUB will steward, update and expand the site to include the next generation of Arab women pioneers and leaders. ​


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