Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI)

The Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum is excited to announce the launch of its Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI).

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, women in the MENA region face the world’s largest gender equality gap and experience significant, institutionalized gender barriers across a range of social, economic, legal, and political issues. Despite these circumstances, the MENA region is home to pioneers who are excelling in practically every field. 

Directed by the award-winning author and activist Dr. Nina Ansary, the WLI will promote a greater and more nuanced understanding of women’s rights issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by fostering an open, inclusive dialogue between scholars, activists, thought leaders, business leaders, and policy practitioners. 

The Initiative was launched in March 2022 Women’s History Month.

Dr. Nina Ansary

Nina Ansary is an award-winning Iranian American author, historian and women’s rights activist. Her books Anonymous Is a Woman: A Global Chronicle of Gender Inequality (Revela Press/2020) and Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran (Revela Press/2015) garnered multiple awards, including the 2016 International Book Award in “Women’s Issues” (Jewels of Allah) and the 2021 Benjamin Franklin Book Award in “Interior Design” and “History” (Anonymous Is a Woman).

She is the Director of the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA) Global Women’s Lecture Series and the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Forum Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) at the University of Cambridge.

In 2017, she was invited to be a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics Centre for Women, Peace and Security and in 2018, she was appointed as UN Women Global Champion for Innovation. She is the recipient of the 2020 Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award, the 2019 Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the 2018 Barnard College, Columbia University Trailblazer Award, and has been recognized as one of “10 Inspirational Women (who) Should be Household Names” by The Hill, one of “Five Iranian Visionaries You Need to Know” by The New York Times and one of “14 Privileged Women to Change the World” by Marie Claire.

Dr. Ansary has appeared on CNN International, Fox News, Larry King, the BBC, Sky News and been featured in a variety of publications, including Time, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, CNN.com, Teen Vogue and the Yale Journal of International Affairs. She regularly presents her work on women’s rights at universities including Columbia, Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, the UN Social Good and Girl Up Global Leadership Summits.

Ansary holds an MA in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies and a PhD in History from Columbia University. She serves on the International Advisory Board of the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum (MENAF); a think-tank based at the University of Cambridge, the Board of Trustees of the Iranian American Women Foundation (IAWF), and the Board of Directors of My Stealthy Freedom (MSF); an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Iranian women’s actions to secure their rights.

She can be found on Twitter (@drninaansary) | Instagram (@ninaansary) | Facebook (facebook.com/ninaansary)

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