Faiza Jama Mohamed, Director, Africa Office, celebrates Hibaaq Osman as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.
When I think about movement builders, I think about Hibaaq Osman. Using her background as a political strategist, Hibaaq has positioned herself at the forefront of the movement to promote women’s equality across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Watching Hibaaq accomplish all that she has done has been a special source of pride for me, because I have known her all of my life. Even when we were children, Hibaaq stood out as someone committed to taking on the world.
Throughout her career, Hibaaq has used her experiences living around the globe, from our home country, Somalia, to Washington, D.C., to Cairo, where she is currently based, to inform her perspective and her approach to delivering actionable and sustainable results to help promote equality for women and girls.
In 2005, Hibaaq founded Karama, a network that works to reform discriminatory laws and end violence against women across the MENA region. For many people, establishing just one organization with such a broad impact would be a tremendous accomplishment in and of itself. But for Hibaaq, it’s only a starting point because her vision is to build a strong, enduring movement. Today, Hibaaq is also the co-founder of the Think Tank for Arab Women, an independent network of female activists, academics, policymakers, and researchers that aims to help women in the region fulfill their fullest potential. This organization is similar to the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), which Hibaaq helped to establish in the 1990s, and which continues to strive to benefit women from the Horn of Africa.
Hibaaq’s strength as a visionary, strategic leader has transformed the lives of female leaders in the region. She has established a deep network of partner organizations throughout the MENA, helping to spearhead initiatives like the Arab Regional Network for Women, Peace, and Security Issues, an Arab regional Network for Women Judges, the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace, and the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace. This is crucial to helping more women’s organizations have the greatest impact; creating a system of support and resources for advocates and activists in the region.
Our work at Equality Now benefits from the initiative of Hibaaq and the rest of our regional partners. It is through these networks that Hibaaq helped to create in the MENA that Equality Now has been able to establish relationships in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Sudan, among others in support of the cause of women’s rights.
I am grateful every day to work shoulder to shoulder with leaders like Hibaaq whose vision for a better world for women and girls in the MENA helps to create a better foundation for all of us to build on.