Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Sheikha Haya bint Rashed Al Khalifa
March 2, 2012 § 1 Comment
Women have made important contributions to Bahrain’s history. Over the course of March, which is Women’s History Month, I will be profiling Bahrain’s women pioneers. Today, I profile Sheikha Haya bint Rashed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s first female Ambassador and the first Arab and Muslim woman to serve as the President of the United Nations General Assembly.
On June 8, 2006, the United Nations General Assembly elected its 61st President since it was founded in 1945, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa from the Kingdom of Bahrain. As the third woman to be selected and the first Arab and first Muslim woman, Sheikha Haya set an example for women throughout the world as President of one of the world’s most important bodies for addressing major global issues.
She made her mark as a worldwide leader long before taking the position, though. Sheikha Haya had first gained international recognition as a female pioneer in 1974 when she graduated from the University of Kuwait with a Bachelor of Law degree. From there, she continued to pave the way for future female leaders.
In 1986, she obtained her Diploma in Civil Rights Private Law from the University of Alexandria, and in 1988 she got a Diploma in Comparative Law from the University of Ain Shams in Egypt. Sheikha Haya then opened her own practice, the Haya Rashed Al Khalifa Law Firm, and served as a vice chairwoman of the International Bar Association from 1997-1999. Through her work and influential role in society, Sheikha Haya actively worked to enhance women’s role in Bahrain before the Islamic courts.
From 1999-2004, she became Bahrain’s first female ambassador as the Bahraini ambassador to France. She was also its nonresident Ambassador to Belgium, Switzerland and Spain. Sheikha Haya continued her diplomatic career by serving as Bahrain’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, the U.S. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
After becoming the 61st President for the United Nations Assembly, Sheikha Haya reached out to women around the globe at the “Women Leaders – Networking for Peace and Security in the Middle East” conference in July 2007. During the conference, Sheikha Haya stressed that female decision-makers from the region needed to come together and encourage other women to become decision-makers. Women in the Middle East needed strong support from international organizations, she said.
With her three diplomas in law, Sheikha Haya was also a major advocate for education. She said it was the most effective way to promote gender equality and peace. “In the absence of quality education,” she said, “you see violence of all kinds.”
Throughout her career, Sheikha Haya’s efforts to promote peace have been widely recognized. In 2007 alone, she was awarded several prestigious honors for her hard work, including the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Special Award in 2007 and the Path to Peace Award in 2007.
Sheikha Haya is one of the most influential female leaders of Bahrain, but more importantly she is one of the most influential female leaders in the world.