All views expressed in this blog are the personal opinion of Dr Iman Bibars and do not represent any organisation with which she is affiliated.
A visionary for social entrepreneurship and an advocate for women’s development for more than 30 years, Dr. Iman Bibars is Vice President of Ashoka Global and Regional Director of Ashoka Arab World. She is an outspoken voice for socio-economic justice and empowerment of underprivileged communities and women, and has worked to heighten national and international awareness of urgent social development issues throughout the Arab World.
She is also the co-founder and current chairperson of the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women (ADEW), a citizen sector organization that provides credit and legal aid for impoverished female heads of household. Egypt’s very first microfinance organization, ADEW is both an influential grassroots organization and a leading advocate for women’s rights, offering an array of programs that speak to the unique needs of the population it serves.
She is the author of several books on gender issues including Victims and Heroines: Women, Welfare and the Egyptian State, and The Women of Tahrir, which details the most recent experiences of women during the Egyptian uprising. Bibars also published one of the first books written in Arabic on US President Barack Obama– Dreams of a Good Fellow.
With an international career spanning from UNICEF to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the World Bank, Bibars is a globally revered social development expert. Bibars has offered her expertise in women’s development issues to the World Bank, UNDP, European Commission and the International Development and ResearchCenter. Serving as Chair for the Regional Federation for Women’s in her governorate in Egypt and a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, she has spoken at various conferences including, Presidential Summit on Leadership, Best Practices in Entrepreneurship Policy, World Innovation Summit on Education, TEDxAshokaU, World Economic Forum on the Middle East, Next Generation Conference, Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, From Charity to Change: Trends in Arab Philanthropy, International Conference for Women, and the International Conference for Population and Development, among others.
Her tenure with Ashoka is marked with continuously innovative and long-lasting work. Through her relentless drive for social innovation, Bibars launched Ashoka Arab World (AAW) in 2003 and since she has raised more than 12 million dollars. It is her job to hobnob with business men and women, philanthropists, and journalists. AAW is a global organization that accelerates social change by identifying and investing in leading social entrepreneurs. Although AAW is one of the youngest Ashoka programs in the world, the program has succeeded in identifying and engaging a relatively large number of Ashoka Fellows (61) from 7 countries. Since 2007, the Levant, Maghreb and Gulf represent 56% of new Ashoka Fellows worldwide.
One of her latest appointments is Global Director of Ashoka’s Global Diaspora (GD) initiative. As director of Ashoka’s global effort to engage diasporic communities as investors and partners in the work of the organization, Bibars developed a comprehensive strategy for engaging several key entrepreneurs and diaspora leaders worldwide. This strategy is being implemented by several of Ashoka’s international country offices, in cooperation with Ashoka’s base of operations in WashingtonDC.
During the first two years of Ashoka’s efforts in the region, primarily in Egypt, Ashoka conducted 75 information sessions about social entrepreneurship to community development organizations working throughout the country. Bibars also launched the Women’s Initiative for Social Entrepreneurship (WISE), a program to foster social entrepreneurship among young women, address the challenges that prevent many women in the Arab region from becoming social entrepreneurs, and combat specific challenges faced by existing women social entrepreneurs.
Under Bibars’ direction, AAW introduced the model of Collaborative Platforms (CP) as a way to have large-scale and high-impact outcomes. As a result, AAW is a part of a wide network of experts in development and community mobilization. With the Arab uprisings and economic difficulties, Bibars has had to double fundraising efforts to sustain past levels of assistance. In the wake of Arab social unrest, AAW has also launched an expanded internet-based media strategy, to raise awareness among young people in the region, and among prospective international partners, about social entrepreneurship and Ashoka’s work via www.ashoka-arab.org. In her ninth year as Director of AAW, Bibars has been calling for support to help shape global entrepreneurial citizens in the region.
Bibars was a Peace Fellow at Georgetown & Parvin Fellow at PrincetonUniversity. She received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Political Science from The American University in Cairo; Bibars completed her PhD in Development Studies and Anthropology from SussexUniversity. Fluent in Arabic, English & French, Bibars’ passion for social development takes her around the globe and serves as her inspiration for new initiatives with Ashoka’s global network. Residing in Cairo, Egypt, Bibars enjoys horseback riding, writing novels, reading about law history and meeting new people who share her passion.
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