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She Leads the Way

By Lour Dahleh

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

From a young age, I have always craved the feeling of success and achievement. Therefore, I have always struggled with these questions: “Is there a recipe for success? Can there be a guidebook for success? Can success be reproduced? Can success come in different forms?”

During my Middle Years Program (MYP) in school, I learned about many successful people: scientists, innovators, politicians, artists, and other influential people with varying careers who made a positive change in the world we live in, and I was amazed to learn how these individuals have left such a huge mark on humanity. The MYP is a five-year school program (6th grade to 10th grade) that empowers students to inquire into a wide range of issues and ideas of significance – locally, nationally, and globally. The result is young people who are creative, critical, and reflective thinkers. In my mind, I wondered why, given that human beings have a similar average life span, most people live a normal life and leave this planet without making a very big impact, whereas some make a great difference in their communities or beyond. Most of the scientists, innovators, politicians, and influential people that I encountered and learned about were men and were predominantly from Western countries. I never came upon a textbook at school that displayed the success stories of an individual similar to myself and close to my environment who faces a similar reality and similar challenges. Therefore, when the personal project was introduced to me, I decided to independently learn about the success stories of women in my culture and my society. I saw the MYP personal project as a great opportunity to take initiative.

The ten inspirational women Lour wrote about.

The MYP personal project is a long-term project that is designed as an independent learning experience for students in any chosen field. My goal was to learn about the paths of ten inspirational Palestinian women from different fields in life and truly explore and understand how they did it, what hardships and fears they faced and what obstacles they had to overcome along the way. I listened as they spoke about the stereotypes they struggled with and the social norms that stood in their way. I identified the inspiration, drive, and motto of each woman during her journey. In addition to gaining this knowledge for myself, I learned that the success stories of the Palestinian women that I chose for my project can actually inspire other young Arab girls similar to me who do not necessarily see or hear these stories of influential women in their communities. For this reason, I decided to write a book in both English and Arabic so that other young Arab girls can be inspired by women who look exactly like them, were raised in the same places and environment, and studied in similar schools.

After a long journey of researching, exploring, and interviewing potential women, I was able to write this book. I chose to write it in the form of letters sent from the ten successful Palestinian women I included in the book to various young Palestinian girls across the nation. I have also decided that the next step in my project will be to hold workshops in various local Palestinian schools. To each workshop I’ll invite a number of successful Palestinian women to speak to the young girls and elaborate on their stories, how they reached success, what obstacles they faced, and what fears and stereotypes they had to overcome along the way. I want to give the youth a firsthand experience of Palestinian female role models and offer an opportunity for youth to speak directly to them, ask them questions, and be able to relate to their stories. As a Palestinian young woman, I am proud to say that after having this experience and being exposed to these heartening stories of incredible women, I have high hopes for our next generation. Palestinian women can do it, Palestinian women can lead the way, and yes, we have the power to make a change!

  • Lour Dahleh is a multilingual Palestinian 10th grader from Jerusalem. She is a member of Horizons Academy and Meet (Middle Eastern Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow). She is also an activist who fights for justice, equality, and social change, and strives to make the world a better place to live in for all.

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