Saudi Arabien: Haifa Jamal Al-Lail

�Read!’ This is the first word of the Holy Quran that was revealed to the prophet Mohammad. It has infinite importance to me, because it connotes learning, tolerance and acquisition of wisdom."

— Haifa Jamal Al-Lail

Dr. Haifa Jamal al-Lail, Dean of Effat College in Jeddah, has been involved in education reform in Saudi Arabia since 1991, focusing on women’s issues and cultural dialogue. Beside academia, Dr. Haifa has worked with diverse organizations, such as the Jeddah Chambers of Commerce and the World Economic Forum. Internationally, she has worked tirelessly to voice the concerns of young women, especially combating stereotypes about Muslim women. Nationally, she has overseen the promotion of educational opportunities for young women.

As one of seven children raised in a single-mother home, Dr. Haifa has drawn a great deal of inspiration from her widowed mother who insisted that all of her children - both male and female - graduate from university. Dr. Haifa fulfilled her mother’s wishes, and with her continued support and encouragement became the first Saudi national to complete a Doctorate in Public Policy, at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She is motivated in “knowing how much she herself would have fought for the idea that the misconceptions about Islam must be dispelled, and that women can play a positive role in doing so.” The energy and commitment Dr. Haifa draws from her mother, late daughter, who passed away in a road accident, and those close to her, finds its expression in the strategies and persistence she shows in pursuing her goals of achieving peace and harmony amongst peoples. Her commitment to peace came as a result of “seeing the tragedy of wars and violence in so many places - despite the lessons from history.” This vision led her to speak at small gatherings at both local and regional levels. Her work has now progressed to an international level, where she participates in international forums and arenas, promoting dialogue and peace. Despite her international stature, she maintains that, “Small is beautiful. This is my strategy in achieving my goals in life.” She believes that individuals have the most to gain from incremental, gradual improvement in their lives. She implements this notion by helping women within the education system in Saudi Arabia. With her encouragement, a large number of young women have pursued post-graduate studies at George Washington University and George Mason University. Often Dr. Haifa would assist them in different ways, ranging from preparing applications to financial support.

Effat College in Jeddah (ECiJ) Jeddah Chambers of Commerce (JCC)