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NEWS & IDEAS

A MAKER You Should Know: Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi emigré who has dedicated her life to her grassroots humanitarian and development organization that helps women brutalized by rape and war, Women for Women International. Zainab is also today's MAKER You Should Know.

Deeply moved by survivors of war-torn countries, and her personal connection to sexual assault, Zainab and her husband Amjad Atallah gave up their 1993 honeymoon to found the organization and aid survivors of the Yugoslav Wars. Salbi then continued to guide it for more than 17 years as its chief executive officer. To date, Women for Women International has distributed more than $103 million in direct aid and microcredit loans and has helped 316,000 women access social and economic opportunities.

The ripple effect is profound: those 316,000 women have carried and nurtured more than 1.7 million family members which in turn secures the political and social health of their wider communities. 

Five things to know about Zainab Salbi:

1. Growing up, Zainab used to dream of being a pilot.

2. At a very young age, her mother had her reading the work of leading Arab feminist Nawal El Saadawi.

3. Zainab's family was part of Saddam Hussein's inner circle, which she recounts in her 2005 memoir Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny—Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam.

4. To get her out of Iraq, Zainab's parents sent her to Chicago for an arranged marriage with an Iraqi immigrant. She was 19 and he was 33. Zainab left that marriage and paid her way through college. She also went on to meet co-founder of Women for Women, then husband, Amjad Atallah.

5. After seeing an image of Bosnian women rape survivors, Zainab knew she had to do something to help them and founded Women for Women International.

Watch Zainab's complete MAKERS interview here.