As part of our Worldette Heroine series we feature another inspirational woman and female leader who has impacted our world. This time we look at Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International and her inspirational work.
Zainab Salbi is the founder of the NGO Women for Women International and was the organization’s CEO from 1993 to 2011.
Zainab was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1970, to a pilot father and a teacher mother. Her mother was a huge influence on her and gave Zainab books to read about strong women and feminism while she was growing up.
She grew up during Iran-Iraq War, and in 1990 her parents arranged a marriage for her with an Iraqi immigrant in the US and sent her out of the country for safety reasons. Her marriage, unfortunately, was unsuccessful; her husband was abusive, so three months after her arrival to the US, she got out of her marriage and found a job to support herself.
Education towards a future
She went on to study at George Mason University, where she earned a degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies, and later received her Master’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.
In the early 1990s, Zainab saw a picture in Newsweek of five rape survivors from Bosnia, and she was deeply affected. It was at that moment that she decided she had to do something, that she had to help those women and women like them.
The founding of Women for Women International
In 1993, when she was only 23 years old, Zainab started the NGO Women for Women International. Women for Women International emotionally and economically empower women who are survivors of war. Zainagb says, “Our focus is on the combination of economic access and education for women,” she says. “The formula for change is not simply giving women more money. And education is very important, but without economic power, it’s very frustrating. So we need them both.”
Zainab goes back to war-torn countries, like the one from which she escaped, and talks with the women in these places and listens to their stories. Women for Women International now operates in eight different countries harmed by war and conflict: Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan.
Zainab is one of the leaders of today in terms of human rights. She believes that a person has to be healthy and happy in order to help other people, and that when she is healthy and happy, she can do her job better.
Find out more about Women for Women International at: www.womenforwomen.org