Ghada Wali

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Egyptian design master Ghada Wali knows a little something about challenges. She learned early on that there were cultural traditions in Cairo that might make her journey to success difficult. “An Arab woman is raised with a million battles that she has to resolve before she can even start believing in herself,” she says. “If she manages to shake what has been built up for years, only then she can break free and start battling the next monster.” Break free she did, breaking records along the way. With Bachelor’s and Master's degrees and honors in graphic design under her belt, Wali became a multiple-award-winning designer, having created an Arabic typeface named one of the best 100 graphic design pieces in the world by the Society of Typographic Arts in Chicago. Last year alone, she became a TED Global speaker—the youngest female Speaker from the Middle East/North African region—and the first Egyptian woman in the world to make the Forbes Europe's 30 Under 30 list. But it wasn’t easy, and she continued to face cultural and gender bias, in Egypt and elsewhere. “As a Creative Team Leader I had difficulty in managing young males because they couldn’t accept a female leader,” she recounts. “My trials weren’t restricted to Cairo, if you are an Arab you’re automatically put in the ‘terrorist/danger’ zone. In the face of all of these hardships, I see women of the Arab World and Africa women as the most resilient and enigmatic women on the planet.”

In the spirit of that resilience she approaches her work with a sense of possibility and derives joy from the people she inspires along the way, despite her challenges. “If I manage through my work to truly inspire one person, change the way they feel, light up an idea in their head, help them take a positive action, improve their lives then that beats anything else that anyone can ever experience. My heart is my compass, I work with my full heart and emotion, and I believe that it reaches the cores of people when it is true and genuine.”

ArtsTeneille Craig