WOW Film Fair Middle East: the four most inspiring women

“There’s been no better time to be a woman, especially in Dubai,” says Lina Malas, Personality of the Year at the WOW Film Fair Middle East awards. From groundbreaking filmmakers to inspirational humanitarians, Vision speaks to a selection of the winners of this year’s ceremony

Sarah Al Hashimi

Rising Talent Leader of the Year (Filmmaker)

To receive an award like this when I’m only 22 is such a great feeling. It shows me that this movie is the right cause; the right message I need to be sending. 

There aren’t many female directors here and the ones that there are – their names aren’t very public. I have lots of friends who studied media like me, but they never wanted to step into the spotlight. They preferred to stay behind the scenes. I think that by going out there and people putting my face everywhere, speaking about the film I’ve made, I’m encouraging more girls to become filmmakers.

Whenever you turn on the TV, or go on the internet, you find groups or causes where women have been speaking up, encouraging each other, loving each other. It’s a time when everyone is rooting for the other women and giving support. Women are doing great things and it feels great to be noticed at a time like this – especially here in Dubai where the support for women has been amazing. 

Sarah Brook
Sarah Brook is CEO and Founder of The Sparkle Foundation, a UK registered charity and international NGO that provides education, nutrition and medical support to communities in Malawi. She lives in Dubai and works in PR

Sarah Brook

Humanitarian of the Year

I have been committed to helping the poor and forgotten since the age of 18, when the people of Malawi, Africa saved my life on my gap year. I feel honoured to have been recognised in the Middle East for our efforts. 

I have spoken at lots of schools, universities and large companies about our work. Our youngest female ambassadors in the Middle East are only eight years old. I am motivating others to show them that if you have a dream you can make it happen and you really can make a difference. I am a normal girl who has overcome death, jail, corruption, witchcraft and so many people telling me that what I wanted to do was not achievable – and I did it. So, if I can inspire other women to stand up for what they believe in and take action, then I hope together we will all make this world a brighter place.

Maitha Al Awadi
Maitha Al Awadi is a flimmaker, actor, producer, editor and makeup artist. She currently works at Blaze, part of the Arabian Radio Network, as a producer

Maitha Al Awadi

Rising Talent Leader of the Year (Filmmaker)

To be honest, there are greater women out there who have tried and succeeded in advancing the cause of women in the Arab world, like Sheikh Lubna Al Qasimi, Amal Al Qubaisi and Mariam Al Mansouri, and many more. Personally, I'm trying to raise the platform for women in the filmmaking industry by proving that creativity and ambition in achieving an original and inspiring piece of cinematic work is no different than that of a man. 

By entering festivals and hopefully succeeding in getting my films screened, I hope to show girls, especially the younger generations, that we have to fight for our dreams, because nothing is impossible once you put your mind to it. The only failure is giving up and settling for something that isn't what you want. I always tell my younger sisters that trying and failing is better than not trying at all because if you don't try at least once, you'll never know if you’ll make it.

Lina Malas
Lina Malas is the co-founder and director of Aventura, a 35,000 sq m adventure park in Dubai – an environment that encourages visitors to play, learn and reconnect with the outdoors

Lina Malas

Personality of the Year

Studies have shown that when women play an active role in societies where they are free to work and grow, there is a direct correlation to the growth and prosperity of the society. 

Women’s involvement in the workforce is growing in the UAE and they are a critical part of teams and leadership. Aventura Park is a grand equalizer—women and men have the same chance to excel on the ropes, and during our programs. I am thrilled when a young girl of 9 or 10 decides to have her birthday on the ropes course at Aventura.  

There’s been no better time to be a woman, especially in Dubai. Compared to 20-30 years ago, we are more educated and we have more choices. We must remember, though, that we live in a world that still has a long way to go. There is still discrimination, harassment in the workplace, female trafficking, and both mental and physical abuse directed toward women all over the world in both developing and developed countries. Women must work together and with men to make the world a great place for our children.