By Sasha Nyary
In 1993, Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American humanitarian, author, and media personality, founded Women for Women International. Her nonprofit empowers women in post-conflict societies by teaching them entrepreneurial skills.
Since that time, the organization reports having helped nearly 450,000 women. Its work, which aims to help women move out of crisis and poverty and into stability and economic self-sufficiency, has been concentrated in eight countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.
This fall, Salbi is the Carol Hoffmann Collins Global Scholar-in-Residence at Mount Holyoke College. She will be on campus October 12–14 and will give a public lecture on “Women, Islam, and the Middle East” on October 13, 2016. The talk begins at 7:00 pm in Gamble Auditorium in the Art Building.
Salbi’s lecture is particularly timely, given the tensions in the Middle East and the discussions about the role of women and of Islam, said Eva Paus, professor of economics and director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, which organizes the Collins Global Scholars-in-Residence program.
“It’s extremely important for the community to engage with these critical issues, not just at Mount Holyoke but also in the larger community,” Paus said. “To hear from somebody who lives the intersection of these issues and has thought deeply about it is a tremendous opportunity.”
The Global Scholars are brought to campus to share their experience of purposeful engagement with the world around particular issues, she noted. “What’s so exciting about Salbi is that she overlaps with so many different interests of faculty and students here.”
In addition to being a “social entrepreneur par excellence,” as Paus called her, Salbi is the creator and host of the Nida’a Show, a talk show focused on women that airs in 22 countries in the Arab world. She is also editor-at-large for Women in the World, a news platform produced in collaboration with the New York Times.
“Salbi will be inspiring to our students because the world at this juncture can easily seem overwhelming in its complexity and depth of problems,” Paus said. “To have somebody who in the face of that has been making a positive difference in different ways, through her international organization and now with her talk show and through her writing, is inspiring.”
During her three-day visit, Salbi will talk with faculty, join an anthropology class, and hold two sessions for students. One will be for students interested in journalism. The other will be to discuss the Middle East and Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing up in the Shadow of Saddam, her best-selling memoir about being the daughter of Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot.
Salbi will also co-lead a master class in social entrepreneurship with Suzanne Bowles FP’07, who works in nonprofit fundraising and development.
“They will each talk about their experience and students will present their ideas and get feedback,” Paus said. “It’s a conversation and a wonderful teaching moment with two extraordinary social entrepreneurs.”
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