Dr. Iman Bibars

Renowned women's empowerment activist

Iman Bibars is the Vice President of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public and the Regional Director of Ashoka Arab World. In keeping with Ashoka’s broad mandate to accelerate social change by identifying and investing in leading social entrepreneurs, Dr. Bibars has brought her own extensive experience as a social entrepreneur committed to solving issues of gender inequality to inform and guide her work supporting hundreds of leading and rising social innovators throughout the Arab World and beyond.

Having launched Ashoka Arab World in 2003, Dr. Bibars continues to lead its efforts today from its regional hub in Cairo. Under her direction, the organization has expanded its operations to 12 countries in the MENA region, identifying and building the capacities of more than 100 Arab social entrepreneurs elected as Ashoka Fellows and raising more than 12 million dollars to sustain Ashoka’s global activities.

A lifelong and staunch advocate of the rights of women, Dr. Iman Bibars has pioneered Ashoka’s efforts to empower women in social innovation. As part of this work, Dr. Bibars conceptualized two initiatives specifically targeting the unique needs of female social entrepreneurs: the Women’s Initiative for Social Entrepreneurship (WISE) and the Women’s Endowment Fund.

Dr. Bibars is also the co-founder and current chairperson of Egypt’s very first microfinance organization, 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. ADEW became the first association in Egypt and the Arab world to provide microloans without guarantors and/or guarantees. Among the many testaments to ADEW’s work, the microloan program now operates in 4 governorates around Egypt and has reached more than 350,000 women to date. Under Dr. Bibars’ direct management, ADEW spearheaded the change of the Egyptian Nationality law, putting female heads of household on the government’s political agenda for the first time.

With an international career spanning from UNICEF to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the World Bank, Dr. Bibars is a globally respected social development expert and a highly sought-after freelance trainer and consultant. She is also 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 recent experiences of women during the Egyptian uprising. Furthermore, she published one of the first books written in Arabic on US President Barack Obama: Dreams of a Good Fellow.

Dr. Bibars holds a PhD in Development Studies from Sussex University and a BA and MA in Political Science from the American University in Cairo. She was a Peace Fellow at Georgetown University and a Parvin Fellow at Princeton University.

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