Muslim Women: Past and Present

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Throughout the ages, from the earliest days of Islam to contemporary times today, Muslim women have been and continue to be active leaders in their communities and countries across the world. This directory is a growing archive of leading Muslim women scholars, activists, writers, politicians, artists, religious and spiritual leaders, civil society leaders and more. Please contribute to this archive by suggesting Muslim women to be featured through our recommendation form.

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Sohaila Abdulali

photo of Sohaila Abdulali

Known For: Author, Activist, Researcher, Public Speaker
Dates: 1964 - Present
Country: India

About

Sohaila Abdulali was born in Bombay, India. She did her schooling in India, and moved to the United States with her family when she was 15. Since then, she has lived in both countries. She has a BA from Brandeis University in Economics and Sociology, and an MA from Stanford University in Communication. Her undergraduate thesis dealt with the socio-economics of rape in India. When she was 20, she wrote an explosive article on the subject in an Indian magazine that won her notoriety for years. In 2013, she wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, After Being Raped, I Was Wounded; My Honor Wasn’t.

Sohaila is Senior Editor at Ubuntu Education Fund, an international NGO working to transform the lives of vulnerable children in the townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She writes and edits grants, annual reports, the Ubuntu website, op-eds and editorial stories, and regular blogs. She helped guide Ubuntu through an update of its communications strategy and is part of a successful team of dedicated, passionate people who are making a real difference in the Eastern Cape.

For two years, Sohaila was the Director of Communications at AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization. In this position, she wrote briefs, reports, press releases, essays, letters and more, which were carried by worldwide media; helped set up the communications strategy of the organization; assisted in the development of a new website; and initiated several large ongoing projects including a comprehensive atlas of AIDS.

In 2010, Penguin India published her novel, Year of the Tiger.

As soon as she graduated from college, Sohaila coordinated the biggest, oldest rape crisis centre in the Northeast for two years.

She worked as a journalist in Philadelphia, Boston and Bombay. She also began her fiction career, and, to support her writing, she did various odd jobs, from working in an independent bookstore, working with mentally ill adults, to doing sleep research in a psychiatric hospital. She moved to Delhi, India, for two years, where she coordinated publicity and publications for Oxfam. She traveled all over India and England, writing, speaking and producing reports, brochures and a film. Back in Bombay, she did freelance writing and research for the Ford Foundation, Oxfam, and the London School of Tropical Hygiene. In 1998, her bestselling novel, The Madwoman of Jogare, was published by HarperCollins India.

In New York, from 1996 on, she worked as a freelance editor for several UN organizations, as well as private companies. She has edited books on computer systems in health care, human rights movements, and hedge funds. She ghostwrote two articles for Wall Street publications. She has produced reports for The Micronutrient Initiative, and worked as a proofreader for a busy advertising agency.

During this time, she has had two Ford Foundation grants. The first was to research, produce and distribute three children’s books on women’s health in India. The results, the RangBibi and Langra series, were sold all over India in four languages. The second grant was to write a book about aboriginal people in Western India. The book is called Bye Bye Mati:A Memoir in a Monsoon Landscape.

Sohaila has done a lot of public speaking and teaching. In Boston, she spoke at hospitals, schools and many other institutions about sexual assault. When she worked for Oxfam, she spoke in public about issues such as poverty and women’s rights. She has appeared on broadcast television in the US, India and on the BBC in England. She was a guest speaker at Clark University in Massachusetts, Northwestern University in Chicago, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, among others.

In 2004 and 2008, she was an adjunct professor at New York University, teaching South Asian Civilization to undergraduates. Her curriculum was based on her latest book, Bye Bye Mati: A Memoir in a Monsoon Landscape.

Sohaila’s writing has been published in India, the US, England, and Canada. She is on the board of Point of View, a women’s media group in Bombay, India. She continues to write and publish both fiction and non-fiction. She lives in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with her husband, neon artist Tom Unger, and their daughter, Samara.

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This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women chronologically by the Common Era century. We are actively building the archive of Muslim women leaders from the past, as well as from today, and we would welcome your recommendations of women to feature. Please complete our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.
This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women by their Country. We are actively building the archive of Muslim women leaders from the past, as well as from today, and we would welcome your recommendations of women to feature. Please complete our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.
This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women leaders by entering the keyword(s) of your choice. If you cannot find a particular woman that you are looking for, please let us know by completing our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.