Voices of Resilience: Stories of Women Leading Change in the Middle East

Today marks two months since I began sharing my personal stories and experiences. As I sit down to pen today’s entry, my heart is full of stories of the remarkable women who have inspired me throughout my journey. I want to take some time to share a little bit about these women, and how they have persevered in the face of extreme adversity. 

In the heart of Taiz, Yemen, amidst the echoes of conflict and the shadows of a water crisis, stands a woman of unwavering strength and vision—Ola Al-Aghbari. In 2021, when the water crisis threatened the very livelihood of her community, Ola didn’t just see a problem; she saw an opportunity for change. Despite facing opposition from conservative figures in her community, her strategic mind and unyielding spirit helped her engineer a solution that would save thousands of lives. By forming a committee of influential local leaders in partnership with PartnersYemen,she was able to successfully negotiate the transfer of nine water reservoirs to the Ministry of Water—providing clean water to 41,000 residents. Ola’s story isn’t just about overcoming adversity; it’s a testament to the power of women leading change in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. 

From Lebanon, the voice of May Nasr resonates—a melody of freedom, justice, and love that transcends borders. As the founder of PartnersLebanon, May Nasr is a woman who has dedicated her life to bettering her community and country. Through her songs of peace, love, and resilience, May inspires not just positive change within Arab communities but also advocates for social justice on a global scale. Her most recent song portrays the war in Gaza through the eyes of a young girl and is a poignant reminder of the transformative power of art. May’s journey is one of using her voice to uplift others, proving that strength often lies in the ability to inspire and mobilize for a greater cause.  

In the outskirts of Baghdad, the story of Eqbal emerges. Hailing from a village where tradition and patriarchy often prevent women from seeking education, Eqbal, a young woman who worked on her family’s land, chose to quietly resist. Despite facing significant threats, Eqbal chose to secretly educate herself so she could break through the confines placed on her by thecommunity. She then began to gather other women in her village to share as much knowledge as she could with them. With time, Eqbal’s efforts transcended the boundaries of mere education; she became a symbol of defiance against the entrenched inequalities that have long silenced the women of her village.

The stories of Ola, May, and Eqbal are just a few of many that reflect the power and resiliency of women in the Middle East. These women embody the strength and spirit of countless others who navigate the challenges of their daily lives with grace and courage. Their journeys remind us that in the face of adversity, there lies an opportunity for growth, change, and empowerment. As I reflect on their stories, I am reminded of the incredible power of women to not only endure but also to thrive and lead the way toward a brighter and more equitable future.  

– Hasna, the storyteller