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Women Advance Science and Technology in the Middle East and North Africa

With the arrival of March, declared internationally as Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to some recent winners of the “Women in Science Hall of Fame.”

[Editor's note:  Check out the full list of the 2012 and all inductees at]

Following the President’s 2009 New Beginnings Speech in Cairo, the State Department’s Middle East and North Africa Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Office—based in the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan—initiated the “Women in Science Hall of Fame.” Through the Hall of Fame program, the Embassy each year recognizes 12 women for their outstanding work in such diverse scientific disciplines as physics, cancer research, biotechnology, marine biology—even science- and technology-related entrepreneurship.  These outstanding women – winners so far have come from Egypt, Bahrain, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia,  Israel, U.A.E., Oman, Jordan, Yemen, the Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, and  Iraq – are making a difference in their countries and around the world, not only directly through their work but also by inspiring girls to study science and become the next generation of innovators.

With the arrival of March, declared internationally as Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to some recent winners of the “Women in Science Hall of Fame.”

Dr. Ghadeer Ibrahim Omar, a 2012 inductee, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology & Biotechnology at An-Najah National University in Nablus, in the West Bank, and a major scientific leader in the Palestinian Territories. Dr. Ghadeer received her BSc, MSc, and PhD from the University of Jordan, and is today the top Palestinian expert in the field of plant taxonomy. Among her singular accomplishments, she created the West Bank’s first herbarium—a collection of preserved and carefully identified plant species. She also conducts research to determine which plants are endangered, and works with other environmentally-minded stakeholders to advise the Palestinian Authority on the ecological impacts of development projects in the West Bank.

Another 2012 inductee is Dr. Ghada Al Haboub, a Yemeni physician who directs Yemen’s immunization program.  A widow and cancer survivor with two children, Dr. Al Haboub’s work has made a concrete difference in the lives of her fellow citizens. Perhaps most notably, Dr. Al Haboub’s polio eradication program was largely responsible for the World Health Organization’s recent declaration that Yemen is now polio-free—a singular accomplishment in public health that brings the world closer to total eradication of this devastating and once-prevalent disease.

And meet Reem Hamdan, an electrical engineer from Jordan and a 2011 inductee.  She was one of only two women in her engineering class of 1991 at the Jordan University of Science and Technology and is now Director of Jordan’s electrical distribution company, EDCO, responsible for managing the electrical grid in Southern Jordan.  Now a mother of three, she worked in the 1990s for a company that didn’t have maternity benefits, so she had her first child over a weekend and went back to work on a Monday!  In November 2011, she visited the United States  as part of a State Department International Visitors and Leadership Program, which was geared toward women scientists and engineers.  She says she was impressed with how friendly and giving Americans were, and in particular with the generosity of mentors, which inspired her to start mentoring younger engineers working for her company.

Joan Rolf is Assistant Director for International Relations at OSTP

Caron De Mars is Regional Environment Science Technology and Health Hub Officer  for the Middle East & North Africa Region, US Embassy Amman