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Zainab Salbi
Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi-American humanitarian, entrepreneur, author, and a media commentator.

At the age of 23, she founded Women for Women International, a grassroots humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of wars rebuild their lives. Under her leadership as the organization’s CEO (1993-2011), the organization grew from helping 30 women upon its inception to more than 400,000 women in 8 conflict areas and distributed more than $100 million in direct aid, micro credit loans, and has impacted more than 1.7 million family members.
Salbi is also the author of national bestseller Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam (with Laurie Becklund), as well asThe Other Side of War: Women's Stories of Survival and Hope and If You Knew Me, You Would Care. Her books received support from iconic women writers such as Alice Walker and from several celebrities including but not limited to Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep and Annie Lennox.

In 2010, President Clinton nominated Salbi as one of the 21st century heroes as featured by Harper’s Bazaar, Newsweek and The Guardian identified her in the Top 100 list of Most Influential Women (2011). The Economist Intelligent Unite named her as one of most inspirational women (2011), and she was identified by Fast Company in the 100 Most Influential Women list (2012). Most recently, she was identified by Forbes Magazine as one of the Most Influential Women on Twitter (2014). The PBS Makers series called her one of the women who make America. She is the recipient of the 2010 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award.
Salbi was also selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2007 and a Clinton Global Initiative Lead co-chair in 2011. In 2014, Salbi received an Honorary Doctorate from York University for her humanitarian work. Salbi has received extensive coverage in US, UK and global broadcast and print media from CNN to MSNBC to The New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian and The Independent, among many others. Salbi most notably appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show multiple times.

Entries by Zainab Salbi

A Letter From a Christian Friend in Iraq

(0) Comments | Posted October 16, 2014 | 5:07 PM

When I was a child my parents gave me a small red radio as a gift from Santa, and I was confused. I did not know who Santa was and had no idea why the occasion merited a gift. Apparently, my parents were worried that I may be jealous of...

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Girls, No More Kissing the Frog Prince

(5) Comments | Posted September 24, 2013 | 11:15 AM

All my life, I looked at the princess who kissed a frog story as just a cute children's fairy tale where the poor prince gets bewitched by the evil witch, who then turns him into a frog. He, in turn, finds a nice princess who wants to retrieve her golden...

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Who Is Rabaa Adawiya?

(3) Comments | Posted August 26, 2013 | 10:25 PM

Rabaa Adawiya Mosque has become a symbol for Muslim Brotherhood protests in Egypt after military took over in June 28 preceding the June 30 revolution, which led to the deposing of former president Mohammed Morsi. After more than a month of persistent protest, this historical Mosque has witnessed much killing...

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Women Lean in Worldwide

(0) Comments | Posted August 1, 2013 | 10:56 AM

It has been a few months since Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In was published, triggering much debate and emotion among women in the U.S.. Though often discussed in relation to U.S. corporate culture, in my opinion, Lean In is a global women's story anchored in one woman's ability...

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Fadia Tunis

(0) Comments | Posted January 14, 2013 | 9:59 AM

Co-authored by Gini Reticker

It is now two years since street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, triggering a revolution in Tunisia that led to the overthrow of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, then president, and a series of revolutions and political change throughout the Arab world. Women were...

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International Women's Day 100 Years On: An Urgent Call to Action for Women's Rights in Afghanistan

(3) Comments | Posted March 7, 2011 | 11:00 PM

"Hope is dying in Afghanistan."

These are the words of my colleague, Sweeta Noori, who directs Women for Women International's Afghanistan programs. These words from a woman who has seen it all: from socialist government, to Mujahidin rebels, to Taliban control. She has seen more than three decades of...

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One Hundred Years Ago

(0) Comments | Posted March 7, 2011 | 4:53 PM

One hundred years ago, more than one million women and men attended rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to celebrate the first anniversary of International Women's Day that inaugurated the year prior in Copenhagen. Their demands were for the right to vote, and work, to receive vocational training, and...

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A New Year, A New Beginning: Stand with Our Sudanese Sisters Today

(6) Comments | Posted January 7, 2011 | 4:07 PM

With the New Year, we may see a new country born through a referendum that will be held this weekend in Sudan. Today I'd like to share a word from Karak Mayik, my sister who heads Women for Women International's Sudan program and is everyday a hero striving for peace...

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Understanding Poverty

(0) Comments | Posted October 29, 2010 | 10:24 AM

I don't think I have ever appreciated the mercy of God and the blessings of my life as much as I do today. I don't think I have ever realized how blessed I am for not experiencing hunger or being forced to make decisions that impacted my life or that...

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A Long Overdue Reunion

(1) Comments | Posted October 25, 2010 | 4:55 PM

This is the tale of two Iraqi women who grew up in the same household but were separated and unaware of each other's whereabouts for 20 years. They finally met through the charitable work of one and the poverty of the other.

The first woman is me, Zainab Salbi,...

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Spotlight on the Struggle of Birtukan Mideksa: Ethiopian Human Rights Activist in the Global Women's Movement

(7) Comments | Posted June 1, 2010 | 9:14 AM

Today I would like to tell you the story of Birtukan Mideksa, an Ethiopian prisoner of conscience who is facing life imprisonment for speaking out against an oppressive government. Birtukan is an opposition leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (formerly Coalition for Unity and Democracy) party and is...

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Remembering Afghan Mothers This Mother's Day: A Letter from Sweeta Noori, Women for Women International-Afghanistan Country Director

(1) Comments | Posted May 5, 2010 | 9:36 AM

My life has not been particularly long--I'm only 37--but already I have been a daughter, a mother, a leader, a war-survivor and three-times a refugee. As an Afghan woman I look back on my time on this earth and already I can see how much has changed for Afghanistan, even...

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Join Me on the Bridge for International Women's Day

(0) Comments | Posted February 17, 2010 | 5:33 PM

You've probably heard of the 1994 genocide that took 800,000 lives and witnessed up to 500,000 rapes in only 100 days. You may be less familiar with neighboring DR Congo, where the same roots of conflict have fostered a war more deadly than any since WWII, where hundreds of thousands...

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Seeing Iraq In Light Of What Happened In Rwanda, Bosnia, And Herzegovina

(2) Comments | Posted November 25, 2009 | 11:57 AM

Fifteen years ago, two countries that had witnessed the most horrible genocides in the last decade of the 20th century ended their wars: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda. Through my work with Women for Women International, I have been working in and visiting these countries for years. This year, I...

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Preventing and Addressing International Violence Against Women

(2) Comments | Posted October 26, 2009 | 11:25 AM

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing to shine light on the global epidemic of violence against women. Women for Women International submitted the following testimony to the Congressional Record offering 16 years of experience on how violence impacts women, their families and communities around the world...

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Where Are Iraqi Women Today?

(1) Comments | Posted September 21, 2009 | 12:32 PM

I'm sitting by the Tigris River in Baghdad on a hot July evening. The air is still, the dust has settled, and the call for prayers is echoing over the river as it reflects lights from relatively new restaurants. I visited my mother's grave yesterday and learned that her tombstone...

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Never Again: Rembering the Balkans

(20) Comments | Posted August 18, 2009 | 2:03 PM

I spent my twenty-fourth birthday in the refugee camps in Split, Croatia. The camps were filled with Bosnian refugees from a war that lasted four years, killed a minimum of 250,000 people and led to the rape of between 20-50,000 women. I had recently founded my organization, Women for Women...

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An Update: President Obama's Speech and the Struggle of Iraqi Women Today

(3) Comments | Posted June 4, 2009 | 7:04 PM

In 1951, Ali Al-Wardi, one of Iraq's most respected historians and social anthropologists, wrote about the need to lift women's seclusion and the necessity of women's full inclusion in all aspects of the public life in Iraq. He argued that gender equality was one of the major prerequisites for a...

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In the Words of Sweeta Noori: An Afghan Woman's Plea

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2009 | 11:03 AM

Today I would like to bring you the story of my friend and colleague Sweeta Noori, an Afghan woman working with me to empower women survivors of war through Women for Women International's Afghanistan Chapter. Through her life we see how, despite decades of political shifts in Afghanistan, the symbolic...

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Finding the Best in the Worst Circumstances: Reflections on my travels to Rwanda and the DRC with Zainab Salbi

(0) Comments | Posted May 7, 2009 | 1:36 PM

By Sara Sykes
Women for Women International

In the Women for Women International headquarters office in Washington DC, I sit in a small office everyday.
I type on my computer.
I answer the phone.
I rush down the hall, eager to finish a...

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