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 frequently appears on "Morning Joe."
Salbi is the author of several books including the national bestseller Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam, If 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 Thinkers, Fast 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.
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 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.
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.
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
Discussing the impact on Jordan of the millions of war refugees.
At TED with "Women, Wartime and the Dream of Peace"
Fearless Muslims in Minnesota - Episode 1
Radicalization of Youth in France
India's Third Gender Movement
Speaking with Oprah on The Shame of Growing Up in Saddam Hussein's Inner Circle.
Women for Women Int'l was the first women's organization to receive the prize presented for demonstrating success in alleviating human suffering.
Examining the scourge of Islamic extremism in Europe and what it means to be a Muslim woman in France today.
"When we speak our truth, we free ourself from fear."
Zainab Salbi hosts a national primetime five-part series on PBS beginning Friday, February 2 at 8:30pm ET/7:30pm CT
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
The Argument for Women's Rights Globally
Conversation with Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist whose colleagues were killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack and Samia Hathroubi, a French Muslim activis
Speaking about the cultural taboos he illuminates through his innovative TV show Satyamev Jayate, which has an audience of 500 million.
At the #movethedial Global Conference, Toronto, November 2018
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”
“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
Freedom Is An Inside Job:
Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World