Zeina Sleiman: Lifting Others

Zeina is originally from Lebanon, but has lived in Qatar for the past decade. She is passionate about uplifting women in Qatari society to share their voices and their success stories. She hopes it will encourage women to contribute to society more and understand that they can achieve anything they want to. She has a genuine commitment in empowering women to believe in themselves and to know they have an important and equal influence in the world. This story was produced in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps.


I’m from Lebanon, originally Lebanese, and I’ve been living in Qatar for ten years now. We moved there after the war and I’ve been living there with my family since then. What I like about Lebanon is the family and how people communicate with others. It’s basically that when you go there, you can’t stay in the house. Because at unexpected times, you’ll find people coming over or when you just go out to the grocery store and you know everyone there. It is different from Qatar, because everybody is busy with work so you don’t have that relationship with your neighbors and the people around you. So that is what I like about Lebanon, that when you go out of the house you know almost everyone. So it’s like a family, but on a bigger scale. It’s something that I feel and I miss in Qatar, and other than that – you know it’s your home country and you have this attachment to it no matter what.

But because I’m living in Qatar, I try to look in a different direction and which is the women in Qatar and how they contribute to their societies. And how their education is not very developed in a way or they don’t participate in activities in their communities. So my project for now is to have a book of all success stories of women who made a change in their societies, and they don’t have to be huge success stories. It’s more about a change in a point in their lives that made them contribute more or made them change how they think.

Because a lot of women in my university as well, they go there because they want to escape something or they want to escape their house or they want to escape a community or like a bubble is what I call it. So a lot of them have goals, they are not just there because they want to be somewhere else. They are there because they want to have something they want to achieve. So the whole point is that they have something they want to share, but maybe they’re not able to share it. My whole project is to take the strength that they have, and use it as an inspiration for other women who really can’t share their stories.

We were just talking about this today, and I think it is about the history of how women are perceived in a community, but it’s also about maybe them not wanting to have this idea that women can be something – so that they can take a man’s place. But the whole idea is that both genders can have the same influence on everyone. It’s something I really think should be highlighted in society. I think just making a difference or being an inspiration to someone else, like telling them that you are not really less than anyone else.

You can be anything you want, you are worthy, and you just have to find whatever makes you passionate about life and keeps you going. It’s not wrong to dream or have these ideas or these plans that you want to do in the future. Even if you weren’t able to achieve all of them, but at least you are dreaming and you’re thinking about it and you’ll do your best to achieve as much as you can. So I would consider that my passion to go on and never stop. And if something happens, just change the road and just continue on towards your goal.

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