Abu Dhabi

1. Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak

Also given the honorable title of “Mother of the Nation,” Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak is known as a “champion of women’s rights,” who has played a pioneering and leading role for women both locally and internationally.  She is the third wife of the late founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan.

Sheikha Fatima started her work in the 1970s by launching a nation-wide campaign against illiteracy, with a particular emphasis on the need to educate girls, and establishing the first women’s society in the country, the Abu Dhabi Women Development Association.  Since then, she has worked tirelessly by establishing over thirty associations, chairing tens of organizations, launching scores of initiatives and campaigns, and hosting and patronizing countless conferences and forums.  She is currently the Supreme Chairperson of the Family Development Foundation, Chairperson of the UAE Women’s General Union, and Chairwoman of the Supreme Council for Motherhood & Childhood.

In recognition of her work on women’s issues, she was granted the Marie Curie Medal by UNESCO.  She has also been awarded for her humanitarian and refugee work, for which she has been presented with a shield written in gold from the UN High Commission for Refugees, as well presented with the Global Humanitarian Personality Award, from the World Heart Group, for her efforts to help the sick.


 2. Sheikha Fatema Bint Mohammed Bin Zayed

Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Sheikha Fatema put her compassion into practice as a young university student.  She is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (and the granddaughter of Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak).

In June 2010, while studying in university, she found herself deeply moved by the poverty still afflicting Afghanistan.  She decided to take action and partnered with a local Afghan firm, Tanweer Investments, to create the Fatima bint Mohammed Initiative (FBMI).  The organization is dedicated to addressing the 42% poverty rate in the country “by providing resources, compassion and the opportunity for impoverished women to free themselves from economic hardship and take a leading role in Afghanistan’s future.”

FBMI is unique because it embraced skills Afghan women already possessed, carpet weaving and spinning, and provided them with further vocational training and the resources they needed to become key industry players.  Indigenous wool is used in order to enhance the value of the product and guarantee 100% Afghan origin.  In addition to employing 3,000 low income Afghans (70% of whom are women), FBMI also offers the families healthcare and education services.

Since its inception, over 10,000 carpets have been produced and sold worldwide, providing sustainable economic development for more than 18,000 individuals.  FBMI has received numerous awards in recognition of its achievements, including the DOMOTEX Middle East Special Recognition Award and Sustainable Interior Design Initiative of the Year in 2011.

 – Rifk Ebeid
Sources: FBMI, The National, Arab Youth Awards, Alowaisnet