An advocate of protecting children’s rights, educating girls and empowering women, Queen Rania Al Abdullah uses her wide reach as the wife of the King of Jordan to bring social justice and gender equality centre-stage. Tweeting from a meeting in 2019 with members of the Umm Ar-Rasas Women Cooperative Society, which supports other women living in the Jordanian Badia and empowers them to launch small businesses, she announced that “Jordan is home to so many incredible women serving as role models in every field”.

The 49-year-old Palestinian-born queen also highlighted the unique challenges for Arab women at the HeForShe IMPACT Summit in New York in 2018, where world leaders convened for gender equality. “There’s a reason our region came last in the World Economic Forum’s recent ‘Gender Gap Report’,” she told the room. She acknowledged that sometimes women have to “work twice as hard to get half the recognition” and that during times of turmoil “women slip off national agendas, increasing the gap between hardship and hope”.

The Jordanian royal urged the need to “pull up women weighed down by hurdles”. “Empowerment is contagious; I see it lighting up the faces of our youngest girls. It’s what I call ‘the reverse domino effect’: lift up one woman, and she’ll lift up others, who lift up more,” she said at the summit, mirroring her thoughts on Twitter.

Aside from supporting women and disadvantaged groups, her focus is children and education. Queen Rania chairs an NGO founded in 1995, the Jordan River Foundation, which focuses on child safety and protecting the underprivileged in Jordan.

She’s an Eminent Advocate for UNICEF and speaks out about the importance of reducing violence against some 300 million children worldwide. In a statement she released for World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse in 2008, she said, “It is up to us all to denounce and deter child abuse … it is our responsibility to comfort, listen, support and defend them.” And added, “CEOs must make child protection part of their CSR.”

Going further, Queen Rania is Honorary Chairperson for the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative and has her own teacher training academy. At the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, she launched a 10-year ‘Empowering One Million Arab Youth by 2018’ campaign, joined by 40 global CEOs to improve education outcomes for Arab high school students.

She is also an outspoken advocate for the refugee crisis, having called on the global community to respond to such crises during visits to refugee camps, including the Rohingya people. She is a board member of the International Rescue Committee, which focuses on global humanitarian aid, relief and development.

Honourable mentions

Melinda Gates

If it isn’t enough to have co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with its mission to tackle global healthcare and educational disparities, the philanthropist pledged US$1 billion to advance women’s influence and power in the US in October 2019. This comes after her new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, hit shelves.

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Melinda Gates.

Halima Aden

Born in a refugee camp in Kenya, this Somali–American supermodel and activist became a UNICEF Ambassador in 2018. She uses her platform to advocate for children’s rights with a mission to bring awareness to programs that save and protect children globally, including the 30 million youths who have been displaced by conflict.

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Halima Aden.