The most influential Arab women in government

Forbes Middle East

Forbes Middle East released the list of the most influential Arab women working in government this year. Take a look at the top 10 women that made it to the list. 

1. H.E. Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi

Country: UAE 

Position: Minister for Foreign Trade

As minister of foreign trade, H.E. Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi aims to reinforce the economic openness on the bilateral and regional levels by opening prospects for investment, and expand distribution in foreign markets. Under her direction, the foreign exchange growth rate has increased 15% reaching $380 billion. Before becoming minister of foreign trade, Her Excellency was appointed as Minister of Economy and Planning in 2004, marking her as the first woman in the UAE to hold a ministerial position. She is a member of the ruling family in Sharjah and the niece of His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah. H.E. Al Qasimi once served as Dubai branch manager for the General Information Authority, the organization responsible for automating the federal government of the UAE. She also held the position of Director of the Information Systems Department at the Dubai Ports Authority for seven years. Her Excellency graduated from the California State University with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and obtained her MBA from the American University of Sharjah. She also received an honorary doctorate degree in science from California State University.

2. Salma Ali Saif Bin Hareb 

Country: UAE 

Position: CEO of Jafza & Economic Zones World 

Salma Ali Saif Bin Hareb is CEO of Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), as well as its parent company EZW, with Techno Park, Dubai Autozone and UK-based Gazeley also falling under the same umbrella. She was the first woman in the MENA region to be appointed as head of an economic free zone. JAFZA alone is accountable for 25% of Dubai’s gross domestic product and generated $82 billion in foreign investment last year. Meanwhile, the number of companies in the free zone stood at 6,918 last year, marking a 26% increase on 2011. Although she holds a BA in chemistry, Hareb has a breadth of experience in marketing, business development, information technology and strategic planning. Hareb also serves as a board member in Dubai Ports and Free Zones World and Dubai Exports Development Corporation. Finally, she is a board member of the Dubai World venture Forsa, which was established by Dubai World to enable the growth of local businesswomen.

3. Dr. Amina Al Rustamani 

Country: UAE

Position: Group CEO TECOM Investments

As CEO of TECOM Investments, a member of Dubai Holding, Dr. Amina Al Rustamani wields considerable influence. TECOM, which earned revenue of $1.6 billion in 2011, with an annual growth rate of 6.8%, includes over 4,500 businesses across multiple sectors including ICT, media, education, science, manufacturing, and logistics. Prior to becoming group CEO, Al Rustamani served as executive director of media, where she oversaw Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and International Media Production Zone. Rustamani joined TECOM in 2001 as a project engineer for Samacom, where she contributed to the design and implementation of satellite TV broadcasting in Dubai. In 2006, she was chosen as a board member of the UAE National Media Council in recognition of her influential role in the local media sector. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University as well as a master’s degree and PhD in the same field. 




4. H.E. Dr. Rawiyah Saud Al Busaidi 

Country: Oman

Position: Minister of Higher Education


H.E. Dr. Rawiyah bint Saud Al Busaidiyah is the first female minister in Oman’s history. From humble origins as an assistant teacher, she was later appointed as director general of several universities, private colleges and other institutions affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education. Her Excellency also served as Vice-President of the Scientific Research Council, Chairperson of the Sultan Qaboos University’s board and director of the coordination and follow up unit for academic affairs in the same university. She has more than 30 years of experience in education and enjoys participating in a number of international events in cultural and educational fields. 

5. H.E. Nadia Rawabdeh

Country: Jordan

Position: Director General of Social Security Corporation

Prior to her current appointment which came into effect in 2012, H.E. Nadia Rawabdeh held several posts over 25 years of service. These include her posting as Head of the Insurance Rights Department, President of the Investment Portfolio Department, Director of the Retirement and Compensations Department and Director of the Quality and Risk Analysis Department. Currently she maintains distinct memberships in various organizations that include the Economic Social Council, the Jury for Excellence in Occupational Safety and Health Award, the King Abdullah I Hospital’s board and the Jordan Post Company’s board. Rawabdeh holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Jordan. 



6. Souad Bendjaballah

Country: Algeria

Position: The Minister of National Solidarity and Family 

Though her term as Minister of National Solidarity and Family has only just begun, Souad Bendjballah served for nine years as Minister Delegate of Scientific Research to the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research. In addition, Bendjballah heads the committee for legal affairs at the National Committee for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights and the Rasheda Society for the Advancement of Women. She is also a professor of law holding a PhD in law, as well as a master’s in legal anthropology and a certificate of advanced studies in comparative law. An avid researcher, Bendjballah participated as a member on notable research projects that include The History of Women in the Mediterranean and headed a project titled Teaching Rights: Between Speeches and Practices. She has also published a handful of scientific publications in fields related to real estate, family law, human rights and women’s history. 

7. Nora bint Abdullah Al-Fayez

Country: KSA

Position: Deputy Minister of Education

Nora bint Abdullah Al-Fayez, appointed upon Royal Decree in 2009, is the first woman to hold the post of Deputy-Minister of Education in Saudi Arabia. Al-Fayez, who holds a master’s degree from Utah State University, also served as director general of the Women’s Department at the Administration Institute in Riyadh. In addition, she worked as an associate professor in the Department of Education Techniques at the College of Education, King Saud University. Through her academic pursuits, Al-Fayez has contributed to educational and scientific research in the fields of administration, training and women in the workplace.

8. Khalida Toumi

Country: Algeria

Position: Minister of Communication and Culture

Khalida Toumi began her political career in 1997 as a representative of the Rally for Culture and Democracy party (RCD) in the Algerian Parliament. After leaving the party, she joined the Algerian Popular Movement and was later appointed as Minister of Culture in 2003. Toumi is an advocate for women’s empowerment and has adopted controversial stances on a range of issues including the Algerian Family Law, which she described as offensive and limiting of women’s rights. The minister is the author of a book on the topic of Algerian women. 








9. H.E. Dr. Fatima bint Mohammed Al Balushi

Country: Bahrain

Position: Minister of Social Development

H.E. Dr. Fatima bint Mohammad Al Balushi assumed her post in 2009 and has also been carrying out the tasks of the Minister of Health. Through her position, H.E. Al Balushi seeks to empower marginalized groups in Bahrain, support limited-income families and direct resources to combat poverty and unemployment. She also serves as Chairman of the Board at Family Bank, a micro-finance bank which seeks to provide support and funding to small-sized projects in line with Islamic Law. H.E. Balushi obtained her bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Canada and holds a PhD from Columbia University in New York. She majored in technology and educational media. 





10. H.E. Mariam Mohammed Khalfan Al Roumi

Country: UAE

Position: Minister of Social Affairs

Before assuming her current ministerial post in 2006, H.E Mariam Al Roumi served as Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Throughout her career, H.E. Al Roumi has held several positions within governmental bodies and state-owned companies. Amongst her roles, from 2006 to 2008, she served as head of the UAE Marriage Fund. H.E. Al Roumi obtained a B.Sc in English literature from the United Arab Emirates University and also received an honorary doctorate degree from Middlesex University in recognition of her commitment to social development in the Emirates and wider Arab world.