Queen Rania’s remarks at HeForShe IMPACT Summit 2018 - NY, USA

September 26, 2018

Judging by the brilliant crowd, either Emma Watson put a spell on the world in 2014, or HeForShe has grown into a global movement. I think it’s the latter.

HeForShe tapped into something women everywhere understood. The right to believe in ourselves…to be all we can be…free from indignity and discrimination.

That spirit rippled around the world, awakening women and men to the promise of new horizons. It even reached the shores of Jordan – and I’m so grateful it did.

It might seem a world away from New York, but as someone who travels between East and West, hearing women’s stories, I can tell you: when it comes to the issue of women’s empowerment, distances shrink and differences fade.

The stress of being a wife and mother, while holding down a job? We’re on the same page.

The frustration that male colleagues are often paid more for doing the exact same job? We’re on the same page.

The disbelief that we must work twice as hard to get half the recognition? We’re with you. Step by step. She for she.

On top of these universal challenges, women in my region face another heart-breaking set of hurdles.

Through civil war and armed conflict, unemployment and forced displacement, Arab women are digging deep to hold their families together in the most testing conditions.

The cruelest irony is that these crises affect women disproportionally, making them ever more vulnerable to abuse. But it’s precisely during such crises that women slip off national agendas, increasing the gap between hardship and hope.

And, yet, they bridge that gap with a spirit of steel and a will to match. I’m so proud that amidst this instability, we’ve seen strides in women’s health and education.

Last month, I met an incredible group of Jordanian women changing the landscape of our labor force. In Arabic, “Sitatbyoot” means ‘housewives’. It’s also the name of an online platform that helps women working from home find jobs and market their skills.

Set up in 2010, it was co-founded by an ambitious man, Saeed, and a determined woman, Nada – which sounds to me like a Jordanian HeForShe ahead of their time!

The words of Mervat Abu Shammaleh, a mother and crochet mastermind, may help you understand its impact.

“Empowerment is contagious,” she told me. “When others see you, they follow your steps. Now, all women in my neighborhood want to do what I’m doing. I feel like a leader.”

Mervat is a leader. And she’s right: empowerment is contagious – I see it lighting up the faces of our youngest girls. It’s what I call ‘the reverse domino effect’: lift up one woman, and she’ll lift up others, who lift up more.

But for all those standing, many more are not yet on their feet. There’s a reason our region came last in the World Economic Forum’s recent Gender Gap Report.

So, I want to urge you: reach over borders and boundaries. Pull up women weighed down by hurdles you’ll never know. Light up the Arab chapter of HeFor She.

Because when everyone is for she, we’re greater than the sum of our parts.

That’s not magic; that’s a movement. And it’s unstoppable.