Women in various regions around the world are considered as an indispensible part of society, a key to prosperity, and essential for productivity – social, political and economic. While the media may not particularly project women in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region in the most desirable way possible, the condition of women there seems to be improving gradually. This is not really surprising, what with the female folk attempting to make their voices heard, venturing boldly into uncharted territory and emerging as headstrong as ever.
Women like Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, current Minister of State for Tolerance of the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Mona Ataya, founder and CEO of Mumzworld.com, and Raja Easa Al Gurg, Managing Director of Al Gurg Group, are not only rooted in their cultural backgrounds, holding close their cultural values, but are also both pacemakers and visionaries, from a national as well as an international perspective.
One such initiative by a woman in the UAE has been Ananke – essentially a non-profit, digital magazine empowering women through awareness, information, and education. It also serves as an interactive platform that engages women through social media. This, in itself, has seemingly taken the masses by storm, speaking for millions of women around the world.
Sabin Muzaffar, Executive Editor of Ananke, says, “While working as a freelancer in Dubai, I interviewed more than 300 corporate personnel, and less than five percent of them were women. So it got me thinking. I wanted a platform where we could highlight women trailblazers. But I didn’t want to stop there. I wanted to showcase these women as role models for emerging and aspiring women. So Ananke was formed with a vision to engage, inform, as well as document women’s issues and achievements.”
Ananke, established on December 2, 2014, stays true to its name— a result of Sabin’s love for Greek mythology and literature. “Ananke is a Greek goddess, or a personification, of compulsion, necessity, and inevitability – one who even had Zeus’ attention,” she says.
A staunch believer in the power of digital technology, Sabin says that it was important for them to create a platform that is global so that they could reach women not only within their own communities, but across the MENA region and beyond. “Take Women’s March for instance – it was a movement not only on the ground, but was definitely a digital movement as well,” Sabin explains.
Talking about the structure and functioning of the team,, she says, “We have a core team of three women, including myself and one tech support. Claire Dangalan is the Features Editor from Philippines and Maha Tazifor is a PR based in Morocco. Our Empower honorary team includes professional women from Australia, Kenya, UAE, the US, Canada, and Pakistan. This nine-member team is now looking after Ananke for the first quarter of 2017 as part of the programme.”Ananke has never compromised on the quality of content, and its vision is simple yet solid. Therefore for Sabin, it has not been difficult to get writers, editors, and other members on board. However, since Ananke is a non-profit publication, monetising has always been a bit of a roadblock, she adds.
Apart from being a radically profound publication, it is also a platform where information – articles, news, interviews, social media posts – are not only disseminated but form the basis of interactive dialogue and debate. It provides a space for women to showcase their talents virtually, explore new horizons through the platform, and engage with other women living in different parts of the world.
Providing a rather fresh perspective on the women and their working life in UAE, Sabin says she is extremely grateful to be operating from Dubai. “It is one of the few countries that has the vision to see how inclusion and diversity is good for the society, and profitable for the business. We have a huge number of women in politics, and the rulers have made it mandatory to have women on board level. Women entrepreneurs are encouraged by the government even on the policy level,”she adds.
When it comes to Sabin’s personal life, it could not have been more exciting. She says, “I am working on a number of things, but I love every minute of it.” Apart from being the Executive Editor of Ananke, Sabin is an Empower Women mentor and Vision mentor at World Pulse. Selected as UN Women’s Empower Women Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment 2015-2016, Sabin is someone with more than two decades of experience in traditional as well as digital media. She is also a mother to two really naughty boys who keep her occupied otherwise.
Over the years, Ananke has collaborated with a plethora of noteworthy organisations. Some of them include Meera Kaul Foundation, The Indian Trumpet, Empower Women, and Women’s Digital League.
Ananke’s Internship and Empower programmes are platforms that offer young girls and professional women from around the world to work for a digital media workplace for three months. Interns are mentored by field experts and get a chance to interview women trailblazers in their own communities. “We have so far mentored 30 girls over the span of 10 months,” says Sabin.
The publication also has a channel called Power Talk that visually showcases women trailblazers as role models for young aspiring women. Besides this, Ananke has effectively covered many events including IIFMENA – Investing In The Future, 2016, and many more.
Sabin closes the interaction with a plain yet powerful message, saying, “Be fearless, be humble and never quit learning.”