t first glance it may appear to be a scene out of a standard fairy tale come to life: a beautiful woman from a relatively modest background rises to marry the prince and become queen of all the land. However, Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan picked up the pen where most fairy tales usually leave it at marriage and ‘happily ever after’ and has continued to write a story for herself that far surpasses anything a Disney movie could produce. Renowned for her humanitarian work, Queen Rania throughout her 11 year reign has been a fierce advocate for youth, for women and for refugees, among many other things, and is arguably one of the most important voices in the Middle East today. “I don’t think there’s one day that I haven’t woken up and not felt that I need to earn this title,” she said in an a 2010 interview with The View, ‘I don’t feel that the title entitles me to anything”.
The daughter of a Palestinian doctor, Rania claimed that closest she had ever came to royalty before meeting the then Prince Abdullah was the pages of People Magazine. However, as a fresh Business graduate having worked briefly at Citibank and then at Apple, Rania found herself at a dinner with the prince of Jordan. Fast forward a whirlwind romance, 6 month engagement and several years, Rania had gone from flicking through the pages of People Magazine to being in them; unexpectedly becoming Queen of Jordan at only 28 years of age and an international icon overnight. Suddenly a monarch of country burdened by debt and limited natural resources of wealth, Rania was facing issues that Cinderella certainly never had to face. Rather than balking in the face of such a position, however, true to her name, Rania chose to use her platform to make a difference in the world.
One issue among many that she has used her position to speak out about again and again is that of women’s rights. “Whenever the going gets tough, the first to get sacrificed are the women,” she said in an interview with CNN. “They are always the last in the door and the first out the door. And so when there is hardship, women’s rights tend to suffer”. To combat this she has campaigned tirelessly for the education of girls and has been an outspoken critic of forced marriages and honour killings. A progressive Arab voice, she has also worked to use her platform to dispel Western stereotypes surrounding Arab women and Islam. Broadcasting videos on her now extremely popular YouTube channel, she has extended her sovereignty to the internet at large, becoming a virtual queen as well as a real one to challenge common perceptions of Arab women and Islam in general. “Islam does not subjugate women and does not hold them back, but certain people choose to interpret Islam in such a way that does hold women back” she told CNN. She has also spoken on a woman’s right to choose to wear the veil, arguing that a woman should have the right to freely choose and define her relationship with God. “We shouldn’t judge people through the prism of our own stereotypes”.
Queen Rania has also been a passionate and powerful advocate for the Syrian refugee crisis. With Jordan sharing a border with both Syria and Iraq, she has seen first-hand the devastation that the war in Syria and the tyranny of Daesh have evoked. “Every seventh person in my country is Syrian refugee,” she told Mic “They all need shelter, food drinking water, education and healthcare”. Penning a powerful personal plea in the Washington Post, Rania urged everyone to remember the reality of the life of a refugee. “No one chooses to be a refugee, she wrote. “Refugees are refugees because the alternative used to be death.”
In regards to defeating Daesh and improving intercultural relations in general, Queen Rania once again is a great believer in the power of education. “We have an ideological battle on our hands, and you cannot kill an ideology with a bullet. That's why the battle we wage in the classroom is perhaps the most important”. Not content with utilising her huge social media platform to project this message to the masses, somewhere between being a Queen, a mother, and a champion for women, youth and vulnerable refugees everywhere; she has also found time to become a published children’s author. Her most popular story, The Sandwich Swap made the New York Times bestseller list, and draws upon one of her own childhood experiences, where she was persuaded to try a friend’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The moral is simple, yet is especially applicable to today’s climate; not to judge a something until you have tried it yourself. You may find, she said in a speech at the 2007 Women’s Conference that “something you thought was foreign and strange turns out to be wonderful”.
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A fiercely intelligent and confident woman Queen Rania embodies not just the substance of a Queen, but also has the style. Named by Harper’s Bazaar in 2011 as the most beautiful first lady, her presence is only made more powerful by her exquisite taste in fashion. She can safely claim alongside her many other achievements to be something of an international style icon, with her personal style encompassing elegance and poise with every public appearance. Styling a tiara to a designer dress with what seems like effortless grace, she often favours neutral colours, though isn’t afraid to turn to splash of colour when needed.
With her Twitter bio describing her role as Queen as “a really cool day job”, Queen Rania is not your typical fairy tale figure. With her work in educational, economic and social reform in Jordan and throughout the world, this modern queen is what girls all over the world should be looking up to. On making a difference Rania advocates her four guiding C’s: conviction, courage compassion and creativity. “Armed with them, you may not be able to rule the world, but you can do your bit to change it for the better”.
On educating women: When you educate a girl, you kick-start a cycle of success. It makes economic sense. It makes social sense. It makes moral sense. But, it seems, it's not common sense yet.
On empathy: “Once you feel that others are like you then you want for others what you want for yourself”
On being a leader: To make a difference, you need to believe in what you're doing; do the right thing, which – more often than not – is not the easy choice.