Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Afnan Al-Zayani

March 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

As an exceptionally successful businesswoman, Afnan Al-Zayani has played many parts. A mother, a wife, a television cooking star, and an activist, Zayani has proven herself to be a force of strength, success, and change. She has repeatedly pushed the limits as an activist for women’s rights and stands as a shining example of female empowerment and entrepreneurship.

After joining her family’s business, Al Zayani Commercial Services, in 1980, she helped her company grow into a multi-million dollar business. In 1999, she purchased the business from her family outright. Her success made her one of Bahrain’s most recognized and celebrated businesswomen.

In 1992, she received Bahrain’s “National Achievement Award” and in 2002, she was named President of the Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society. As president, Zayani formulated a comprehensive agenda that worked to empower women in business and to advocate for women’s issues in the government. Zayani led the charge for gender equality in the workplace and pushed for the passage of new legislation to improve the personal status of women in Bahrain. She also received Vital Voice’s Leadership in Public Life Award in 2010.

She also worked to encourage women to expand their participation in Bahraini society beyond traditional roles by engaging in politics and expanding their participation in other aspects of society outside of traditional gender roles. “If a woman feels secure with her rights and her family,” she said during an interview with Gulf Daily News, “she will have the chance to venture out for other things.”

Zayani led by example and became more engaged in civil society and with the government by demanding for enhanced women’s rights in divorce and child custody. She recognized that continued progress in the country was dependent on the full participation of both men and women, and that ensuring women’s protection in the justice system was essential for maintaining secure, stable families.

Her leadership as a pioneer woman was acknowledged throughout the Arab world. In 2006, MENA Businesswomen’s Network was established and Zayani was asked to be the organization’s president, a position she still holds today. An accomplished cook, Zayani has written several best-selling cookbooks and regularly appears on television cooking shows.

Truly the modern Bahraini woman, Zayani’s example has become an inspiration for women across the Middle East and the world. She shows us that we can successfully play a number of roles in the community and make a significant contribution without having to compromise.

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