Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa

March 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

In 2008, Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa from the Kingdom of Bahrain was appointed as the first Minister of Information and Culture in a GCC country. As a woman, this unprecedented honor made her a historic icon and role model throughout the region. In 2005, Forbes Magazine included her in its list of the “Most Powerful Women in the Arab World.”

Prior to accepting the role as the Minister of Information and Culture, Sheikha Mai founded the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research in 2002. She also acted as the Assistant Undersecretary for Culture and National Heritage in Bahrain’s Ministry of Information from 2002 to 2008. Currently, she is the Minister of Culture of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

As Minister of Culture, Sheikha Mai has significantly contributed to the development and preservation of the Bahrain’s culture. She stated that her motivation derives from her desire to promote awareness about Bahrain’s heritage. “Bahrain has a particularly rich and unique history, with an archaeological heritage going back 6,000 years,” she said. “It is our duty to protect it and to make it accessible to the public.”

Utilizing her position in Bahrain’s cultural affairs, she established a sector through her project “investing in culture,” which allowed her to build a partnership between the nation’s cultural sector and the banking and financial institutions. In 2007, she opened the first International Pearl convention acknowledging the historic and economic importance of the Gulf’s oldest trade. During her speech at the opening ceremony, she said, “This initiative marks the re-initiation of our native trade which is also very close to our cultural heritage.” This was a great moment of pride for the region, for it revived a historic and prosperous business that could greatly boost the economy.

Sheikha Mai’s expertise and influence in cultural affairs developed through education and managing several cultural and art centers. She obtained her Master’s degree in Political History from Sheffield University in UK and managed the “house of poetry” and “house of press heritage.” She is also a published historian and author with several books on Bahrain’s history.

Beyond the region’s cultural sector, Sheikha Mai has played an important role for Arab women. Through her work, she has showed us the importance of education and our ability to play a significant role in society by pursuing our interests and developing professional skills in the industries of our choice. In recognition of her leadership in society and in female empowerment, Sheikha Mai has received a number of awards, including the Distinguished Arab Woman Prize in the field of Administrative Leadership awarded by the Center of Woman Studies, Paris. To this day, she continues to use her role and access to the public to influence national progress and growth.

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