MAKERS Profile

Zainab Salbi

Founder, Women for Women International

In this video

Zainab Salbi on encounters with Saddam Hussein, surviving rape, and finding her calling helping women survivors of war.
Women for Women International is a grassroots humanitarian and development organization helping women brutalized by rape and war. Iraqi emigré, Zainab Salbi 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. Women for Women offers rights awareness training, education, and vocational skills in a program that literally saves lives. It 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. Salbi’s drive and conviction is deeply personal. As a teen, she escaped the terror of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle for the United States, a flight chronicled in her 2005 memoir Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny—Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam.

More From Zainab

Saddam's Invisible Cage
Salbi describes life in Saddam Hussein's inner circle - the opulence and his terrifying, insidious control.

Gratitude for Misfortunes
Why Salbi wouldn't trade any of her life's misfortunes in the end.

Always An Outsider
Salbi on the meaning behind her autobiography's title, Between Two Words.

Leadership Lesson
Hardly a sign of weakness, Salbi argues that good leadership means showing vulnerability.

All Too Human Heroes
Salbi's heroes are two visionary leaders with all-too-human flaws.

Just Being
Salbi shares the advice that helps her rein in self-criticism and perfectionism.

The Cause or the Relationship
Despite the toll her work took on her former marriage, Salbi believes women can have it all.

Women Have to Roar
Speaking out about injustice is not for activists alone; it is the job of every woman.

Don’t Be a Martyr
Salbi on how she finally realized that taking care of herself made her better at her work, not a lesser activist.

When Someone Believes in You
The encouragement Salbi's mother gave her when she was 15, is the greatest kind of gift.

A Bikini or A Headscarf
Salbi on what "feminism" means to her and why we can embrace it no matter what our cultural background.

The Argument for Women's Rights Globally
Salbi explains why the economic case for spreading women's rights worldwide, is always more effective than the moral one.