At the age of 23, Zainab Salbi founded Women for Women International, a grassroots humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of wars by offering support, tools, and access to life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency. Under her leadership as the organization’s CEO (1993-2011), the organization grew from helping 30 women upon its inception to helping more than 400,000 marginalized women in 8 conflict areas. It also distributed more than $120 million in direct aid and micro credit loans that impacted more than 1.7 million family members.

Salbi is also the host and creator of several TV shows including: Through Her Eyes with Zainab Salbi, a new original series on Yahoo News! exploring contemporary issues from a female perspective,  her acclaimed #MeToo, Now What? on PBS (2018); The Zainab Salbi Project, an original series on Huffington Post (2016); The Nidaa Show with TLC Arabic where she started with the historic first interview of Oprah Winfrey in the Arab world; and  she appears regularly as a commentator on MSNBC and other media outlets.

Salbi is the author of several books including the national bestseller Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of SaddamIf You Knew Me You Would Care, and her latest, Freedom is an Inside Job: Owning Our Darkness And Our Light To Heal Ourselves And The World.

Salbi has been consistently identified as one of the women impacting the world. People Magazine named her as one of the “25 Women Changing The World” in 2016, Foreign Policy Magazine named her as one of the “100 Leading Global ThinkersFast Company identified her as one of "100 Most Creative People in Business", and The Guardian has listed her on their "Top 100 Women of Activists and Campaigners.” In 2017, Arabian Business named Salbi as the “#1 Most Influential Arab Woman in the World,” and has since been joined by Gulf Business to consistently name her as “One of the World’s Most Influential Arabs.” Most recently, she was identified as one of the "100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in 2019" by Watkins. 

Salbi was recently selected as a jury of The Hilton Humanitarian Prize - the biggest award for humanitarian work throughout the world. Salbi sits on the Board of Directors of Synergos and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP).

Zainab Salbi is available for:
• Keynote Addresses
• Moderating Panels
• Hosting a Fireside Chat
• As Mistress of Ceremonies for Events

Speaking Topics & Select Keynote Descriptions:

Freedom is an Inside Job: Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World:

In Freedom Is an Inside Job, Zainab Salbi explores her own riveting journey to wholeness—and how embarking on such a journey enables each of us to create the world we want to live in. After years of working as a successful CEO and change-maker, Salbi realized that if she wanted to confront and heal the shadows of the world, she needed to face her own shadows first—and this could only be done by looking within. Through personal anecdotes, real-life stories, parables, and insightful guidance, Salbi takes us through a process of self-discovery. We learn to uncover our hidden motives and desires so we can live in alignment with our authentic values. “As long as we are conflicted within, we will continue to live in conflict without,” writes Salbi. “If we want to change the world, we must begin with ourselves.”

Islam, Radicalization & Islamophobia:

Zainab Salbi grew up in a secular Iraqi family, where Islam wasn’t an important part of her identity. Only recently—with the emergence of Islam as a threat to the world and to women’s rights—has Salbi begun to explore the religion to understand the crisis surrounding it.  When the religion shifted in recent years to a more fundamentalist form by a violent extremist minority, threatening women’s rights and human rights, Salbi began to explore the religion to understand the origins of the crisis surrounding it. She wanted to know why it moved from being a religion of acceptance to being perceived as one associated with fundamentalism and violence.  Her studies include why women are supporting religious fundamentalism, why youth in Europe are joining ISIS, and what is the connection between the wars in the Middle East, Islamophobia and violence in the name of the religion.  She sheds light on these issues, how we got here and how we get out of this crisis. 

"Growing up, my family was friends with Saddam Hussein. We didn’t support his beliefs—we were his social friends. He didn’t view us as a threat because we weren’t politically ambitious, so he trusted us. Because we were westernized, we taught him things like how to use a fork and knife and how to entertain foreign diplomats. But I saw a lot of corruption as a result of our relationship, and I recall being 16 years old thinking, ‘I’m not going to be part of this.’ 

As an adult, I went back to my childhood home to find that it had become an execution center, then a brothel, then a military base. It was a shell that I didn’t recognize. A third of the country was destroyed, and for the first time I understood the rise of radicalization. 

Many Muslims radicalized because they felt discriminated against, undervalued and unaccepted. Fundamentally, I don’t agree with radicalization, but I can relate to the fact that no matter what I am or who I am, I won’t be accepted. There have been times that I would wear my head scarf out of spite—to make the point that I’m American, I’m Muslim, and I’m not oppressed. For many, religion has become a form of political expression. 

My advice for the West is, don’t lose your values—not only for your sake, but for everyone’s sake. When you compromise your values, it impacts everyone else—we all lose. There’s nothing more that I respect about the West than the value of freedom and equality."

#Me Too, Now What?  Based on Zainab's highly acclaimed show broadcast nationwide on PBS.

Zainab examines how mainstream cultural norms in music, advertisement, publications, gaming, and pornography have created an overtly sexualized and objectified image of women that has impacted social norms and the behavior of men and women.  She explores the line between freedom of expression and the objectification of women, the money that was invested in the objectification of women, and how individual behavior tolerated such objectification for business reasons or because it became the norm. She also exposes hidden cultural biases as they relate to patriarchy, equal pay, corporate culture, leadership, legal reforms, individual behavior and how they all intersect with race, class and gender. If we are to examine the root cause of sexual harassments, Zainab points out that we need to examine the culture of complicity and the price we have to pay if we want to create real change in the treatment of women.

Other lecture topics include (descriptions upon request)

— The Culture of Sexual Harassment & Abuse: Our Complacency & Complicity

— Women, Islam & The Middle East

— Women, War & Peace

— The Leadership Journey

— Women & Leadership: From Fear to Love

Zainab is also glad to tailor a talk to your organization's needs.

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam

Zainab Salbi was eleven when her father was chosen to be Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot and her family’s life was grafted onto his. Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam is a riveting quest for truth that deepens our understanding of the universal themes of power, fear, sexual subjugation, and the question one generation asks the one before it: How could you have let this happen to us?

If You Knew Me You Would Care

If You Knew Me You Would Care represents a journey taken to find women who have survived wars, violence, and poverty in some of the most oppressive and dangerous place on Earth to collect their stories.  A collaboration between women’s rights activist and Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi and photographer Rennio Maifredi, the stories go beyond tears and victimhood and reveal joy, love, and forgiveness and what it means to be a powerful, female, survivor - a celebration of women’s stories and strength worldwide.

The Other Side of War

With stunning images by award-winning photographers Susan Meiselas, Lekha Singh, and Sylvia Plachy, Zainab Salbi presents a riveting collection of letters and first-person narratives by amazing women who survived war's devastation and now must find the strength to rebuild families and communities. Throbbing with pain and loss yet glowing with courage and hope, The Other Side of War explores six regions where Women for Women International, the organization she founded, has helped survivors of the world's most tumultuous countries learn new skills, open small businesses and forge bonds with sponsors.

Overviews by Salbi explain how each nation's history led to violent conflict; then, with searing eloquence, the women tell their stories—of horror, cruelty, and suffering but also of profound inspiration as they work toward renewal and toward the day their fierce determination is rewarded with productivity, prosperity, and lasting joy.

Freedom Is An Inside Job

In Freedom Is an Inside Job, Zainab Salbi explores her own riveting journey to wholeness—and how embarking on such a journey enables each of us to create the world we want to live in.

After years of working as a successful CEO and change-maker, Salbi realized that if she wanted to confront and heal the shadows of the world, she needed to face her own shadows first—and this could only be done by looking within. Through personal anecdotes, real-life stories, parables, and insightful guidance, Salbi takes us through a process of self-discovery. We learn to uncover our hidden motives and desires so we can live in alignment with our authentic values. “As long as we are conflicted within, we will continue to live in conflict without,” writes Salbi. “If we want to change the world, we must begin with ourselves.”

See More
Zainab Salbi's Interview with Queen Rania of Jordan

Discussing the impact on Jordan of the millions of war refugees.

Zainab Salbi - Author, TV Commentator & Founder of Women for Women International

At TED with "Women, Wartime and the Dream of Peace"

The Zainab Salbi Project - Episode 1

Fearless Muslims in Minnesota - Episode 1

The Zainab Salbi Project - Episode 5

Radicalization of Youth in France

The Zainab Salbi Project - Episode 2

India's Third Gender Movement

Zainab Salbi with Oprah on SuperSoul Sunday | OWN

Speaking with Oprah on The Shame of Growing Up in Saddam Hussein's Inner Circle.

Zainab Salbi - Closing remarks at The Hilton Humanitarian Prize ceremony

Women for Women Int'l was the first women's organization to receive the prize presented for demonstrating success in alleviating human suffering.

Zainab Salbi: Moderating "Paris On the Brink" Panel at Women in the World Summit, Los Angeles, CA, 03.07.2017

Examining the scourge of Islamic extremism in Europe and what it means to be a Muslim woman in France today.

Zainab Salbi Has An Antidote to Fear

"When we speak our truth, we free ourself from fear."

#Me Too, Now What? with Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi hosts a national primetime five-part series on PBS beginning Friday, February 2 at 8:30pm ET/7:30pm CT

Zainab Salbi: A Conversation with Indian-American Human Rights Activist Malika Dutt on Creativity and Activism

Zainab and Malika, founder of Breakthrough, fearlessly discuss what it means to be an activist. “How to use creativity and media to spread your messag

Zainab Salbi: Makers

The Argument for Women's Rights Globally

Zainab Salbi - Moderating Panel on Fighting Muslim Extremism at Women in the World.

Conversation with Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist whose colleagues were killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack and Samia Hathroubi, a French Muslim activis

Zainab Salbi on Women in the World Interviews Bollywood star turned talk show hose Aamir Khan

Speaking about the cultural taboos he illuminates through his innovative TV show Satyamev Jayate, which has an audience of 500 million.

Zainab Salbi #movethedial Keynote Address

At the #movethedial Global Conference, Toronto, November 2018

Zainab Salbi at University of San Diego's Kroc School of Peace Studies

Speaking on Women Building Bridges & Rebuilding Societies

"What makes Zainab one of the most inspiring women I’ve met isn’t her amazing personal story, but what she’s done with it.”

President Bill Clinton

“Zainab believes that you can change the world one woman at a time. What makes Zainab so different, and the inspiration that she is, was that she acted. She acted in way that has given birth to a movement of hope for women in war-torn countries across the world”

Gloria Steinem

“A remarkable, astonishing memoir…more can be learned about Iraq from this book than from all the newscasts.”

Alice Walker, Author of The Color Purple

Speaking Engagements:

"Zainab delivered an extremely unique and impactful keynote at our #movethedial Global Summit in Toronto in November of 2018. She connected deeply with the audience and took us on a powerful journey. Her lived experience, deep empathy, knowledge and passion for women's rights and freedom was moving and inspiring for the entire audience of 1000, including numerous C suite executives moved into action by her profound words." 

Jodi Kovitz, Founder & CEO #movethedial


PRAISE FOR

Freedom Is An Inside Job:
Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World

” If you want to know what true self power is then read this book. Zaineb Salbi , a modern day icon of empowerment and an inspiration to millions of women and to men like myself shares her journey from an environment of subjugation and cruel circumstances to inner freedom and leadership.The poet Rumi said ” Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open ?” The prison is the mind forged shackles of our own conditioning . Zainab’s book will open your inner eye to the beauty of your own being.“

Deepak Chopra

“Not often does a book hold up a mirror to our souls, helping us to find courage and inspiration from within. Here Salbi gives us an extraordinary personal story, told with touching candidness that, though unique to her life, will deeply resonate with women all across the world. Her human approach to hard issues is shaped by compassion, intelligence, and emotional wisdom. Deeply human, sensitive, and sturdy, Salbi’s writing will heal hearts.”

Elif Safak

 “A true spiritual seeker must eventually search inside her own self. This Zainab Salbi does with great consistency and courage in Freedom Is an Inside Job. Sharing her discoveries with determination and resolve, she demonstrates what is possible for anyone who sincerely desires to be part of a new imagination for changing the world.”

Alice Walker

“Freedom comes from telling our own story, and empathy comes from listening to the stories of people very different from us. Zainab Salbi inspires us to do both. May her book help create bridges to a much bigger and kinder world.”

Gloria Steinem

“What Zainab Salbi has given us with this book is a tremendous act of courage. Freedom Is an Inside Job is a deeply felt revelation of Zainab’s heart and mind and her hopes for a better world. She provides for us all an example of what searching within ourselves can look like, and the powerful results of such a journey. We owe her no less than our thanks, but also to follow her exacting lead.”

Mychal Denzel Smith

“In this prescient and timely work, Salbi offers us a path to personal authenticity and freedom. It is an inner journey that demands we see with absolute clarity both the light and darkness we harbor within.”

Sharon Salzberg

“Zainab Salbi has written exactly the book we need for our fear-ridden and divided world. It’s time for each of us to do our own work and embody the change we want to see; only then, from a place of fullness, can we light the way ahead. Read this book and then help point the way for others.”

Arianna Huffington

“There could not be a more critical time to read this book—and act as it recommends—than now, in these incredibly divisive times. In beautiful prose, and with extraordinarily moving stories, Zainab Salbi shows us how we can open ourselves to ourselves—and then to others—and actually then reach across seemingly impossible divides to achieve healing for the human condition. All of us who seek justice—and anybody who seeks understanding—must start here, with compassion. This book is like a salve for our collective wounds—we all need it now.”

Saru Jayaraman

“Freedom Is an Inside Job is a remarkable testament to the adage that only what we achieve inwardly can change outer reality. Zainab Salbi’s courageously honest journey to excavate her innermost truths and reveal her truest self is a precious gift for anyone who aspires to live their fullest and truest life. It’s equally an essential guide for leaders devoted to making the lives of others better. Readers who join Zainab on her quest for true freedom will be inspired to emulate her humble and bold example.”

Dov Seidman


Praise for: Between Two Worlds —
Escape From Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam

"…a torrent of vividly recalled memories [that] reads with the sort of artless verve that can come only from one who’s been unshackled from a lifetime of repression.”

Vogue

Praise for:  If You Knew Me You Would Care

Featuring Forewords by Meryl Streep, Annie Lennox, Ashley Judd, and Geena Davis.

“If You Knew Me You Would Care” presents stunning photographs of women living where violence, poverty, and conflict are a given. Luckily, they have survived to tell their tale. Paired with their personal stories, the photographs of smiling faces become truly powerful and inspiring documents of life beyond crisis.”

The Huffington Post

“As I read, the tragic circumstances that have brought these faces to these pages almost become secondary to the courage, hope, faith and resilience of these women. By the time I reach the end of this book, these women are no longer anonymous victims and the sentiment behind the book’s title is obvious. “

Le Journal de la Photographie

“She went on the journey of a lifetime, interviewing women all around the world about their very different lives. But what Zainab Salbi found is  that some things cross all boundaries.”

Good Housekeeping

“…a powerful photo book spotlighting female survivors of war, violence, and poverty.”

Marie Claire

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