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Lina Abirafeh        

Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women; Global Women's Rights Expert

Lina AbiRafeh is committed to building a better world for women.

AbiRafeh is a global women’s rights expert and gender equality advocate with decades of experience worldwide. She creates innovative solutions to global women’s rights challenges.

AbiRafeh worked for over 20 years in development and humanitarian contexts in Afghanistan, Haiti, Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, and others. Her experience spans global organizations such as the World Bank and various United Nations agencies.

AbiRafeh advises several organizations and companies at a senior level. In addition, she is also the Senior Advisor for Global Women’s Rights at the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University, where she served as Executive Director for seven years. AbiRafeh is also the founder of Yalla, Feminists! an online space dedicated to amplifying women’s voices worldwide.

AbiRafeh was honored to be able to share her passion and experience in ending violence against women on global stages including her TEDx talk, WomenDeliver PowerTalk, keynote address for Swedish International Development Agency annual meeting, amongst others.

AbiRafeh completed her doctoral work from the London School of Economics and published “Gender and International Aid in Afghanistan: The Politics and Effects of Intervention” in 2009, based on her PhD research. Her second book “Freedom on the Frontlines: Afghan Women and the Fallacy of Liberation” was released in February 2022. Her next book is underway.

AbiRafeh speaks and publishes frequently on a range of gender issues, such as the need for a feminist response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Arab women and girls. She believes women’s leadership is the strongest vehicle for peace and sustainable development. AbiRafeh’s piece I Hate International Women’s Day has resonated with women’s rights activists worldwide.

Her work in support of women in Afghanistan was featured on CNN, leading to a live CNN interview on this topic. She continues to advocate for women’s rights worldwide, with appearances on France24, CNN Greece, BBC, Good Morning America, and others.

AbiRafeh sits on the board of numerous global women’s rights organizations including SheDecides, Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, Forced Migration Review, Society of Gender Professionals, Global Women’s Institute, and others. AbiRafeh has received various awards and recognitions including the Gender Equality Top 100 worldwide in 2018 and 2019 and a Vital Voices fellowship for 2021 for outstanding women leaders. She was recognized by the Women’s Media Center as one of their Progressive Women’s Voices for 2021 and is featured in their database of experts. AbiRafeh is also a Women inPower fellow for 2022.

Speech Topics

Equality for women… what will it take?

Women are half of the world’s population, but continue to be the majority of the world’s poor, kept from basic education, forced into marriage, marginalized in the working world, underrepresented in every aspect of public life, and denied rights to their own bodies and lives. Armed with shocking statistics and powerful anecdotes built from over two decades of firsthand experience in some of the world’s most challenging countries, Lina AbiRafeh makes a strong case for women – and how we all have a role to play in building a better world.

Making the case for inclusion of women

There are 3.7 billion women in the world, but full inclusion of women still has not been achieved. No country in the world has full gender equality. At the present pace, it will take 120 years for women to achieve education, health, and political and economic parity with men. We pay a high price for inequality – as individuals, communities, countries, corporations. Now more than ever, we hold our institutions to account, ensuring that the rhetoric of diversity and inclusion is met by actual representation. Lina AbiRafeh brings experience and evidence to make the indisputable case for women’s inclusion.

Lead like a woman

The world – and the challenges it brings – are not gender-neutral. Therefore, our leadership and solutions can not be gender-neutral. Lina AbiRafeh builds on decades of experience to bring an understanding of gendered impacts of various challenges and highlighting the gendered dynamics of leadership. Sharing her global experiences from over twenty countries, she makes the case for women in leadership as a driver of peace and progress.

Gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive justice, Arab feminisms, the fight for women's equity in the Arab world, womens' bodily autonomy, women humanitarian aid workers, women in conflict, women peacemakers


Lina Abirafeh Executive Director, The Arab Institute for Women; SheDecides Guiding Group
Dr. Lina Abirafeh is the Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University – based in New York and Lebanon. Her background is in gender-based violence prevention and response in development and humanitarian contexts.

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