Executive Director of UNFPA
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid served as the first Saudi Arabian to head a UN agency. She was appointed head of UNFPA in 2001 with the rank of Under-Secretary General of the United Nations. Previous to this position, Obaid was Director of Division for Arab States and Europe, UNFPA. Obaid was also the first Saudi Arabian woman to receive a government scholarship to study in the United States. She has a doctorate degree in English Literature and Cultural Anthropology from Wayne State University in Michigan. She received a B.A. in English Literature and Sociology from Mills College in California. A few years later, in 1975, Obaid established the first women’s development programme in Western Asia. This program helped build partnerships on women’s issues between the United Nations and regional NGOs. Between 1984 and 1985, she was a member of the League of Arab States Working Group for Formulating the Arab Strategy for Social Development. From 1992 to 1993, she was Chief of Social Development and Population Division, ESCWA and Social Affairs Office, responsible for the advancement of women from 1975 to 1992. In 1996, Obaid chaired the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Gender in Amman and in 1997 she was a member of the UN Inter-Agency Gender Mission to Afghanistan. She lives with her husband and two daughters.