Women empowerment sees greater emphasis in region, says Sarah Refai


Sarah Refai, CEO and founder of Canada-based Coconut-media and Dawrati Online.
Sarah Refai, CEO and founder of Canada-based Coconut-media and Dawrati Online.

The UAE has set good precedents, in terms of gender-neutral policies, for the rest of the region to follow.


Sandhya D'Mello

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Published: Wed 27 Apr 2022, 10:08 PM

Last updated: Wed 27 Apr 2022, 10:11 PM

Women empowerment has assumed greater emphasis in the region, with many entrepreneurs, industry stalwarts, and influencers breaking into the mainstream in recent years, says Sarah Refai, CEO and founder of Canada-based Coconut-media and Dawrati Online

“This development is rather stark in the UAE, where women are heading the powerful missions and their existence alone is a reminder for young girls and the next generation to believe that they can break gender biases and excel in any industry of their choice. That said, gratitude is also owed to the UAE leadership for facilitating a favourable environment for women to thrive,” said Refai.

“The UAE has set good precedents, in terms of gender-neutral policies, for the rest of the region to follow. But, personally, I believe no matter how favourable the external circumstances are, internal inhibitions can still hold you back. So, to all the girls out there, I’d like to tell you that gender biases will only impact you if you let them.”

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the Mena region will need 142.4 years to close the gender gap at the current rate of progress. This is because gender bias is one of the oldest forms of inequality in existence, deeply rooted in the social fabric. So, eliminating gender bias is indeed a tall order. That said, in an information age characterised by ever-evolving sociocultural dynamics, there are no limitations to what one can achieve and how soon one can achieve it.

Refai is CEO and founder of the Arabic e-learning platform Dawrati and believes education is the first step to breaking the biases. “I started my entrepreneurial journey in 2017, with a meal prep company. I learnt the ropes of business management and marketing, which inspired me to launch Coconut-Media Inc. in 2018. Alongside, I was fortunate to have enrolled in a few mastermind courses, which put things in better perspective. Recognising the gap for Arabic content in personal brand marketing strategies, I started Dawrati in 2021, later becoming the first Arab female entrepreneur to receive The Two Comma Club Award for making over a million dollars in a year. It all started with my determination to constantly learn,” explained Refai, whose business podcast, “The Secrets of Marketing”, has featured at the top of the category in the Mena.

“Impact-led monetising and marketing are central to my work with Dawrati,” she continued, “I chose them not because I was great at them but because of the positive difference they could make on countless lives and livelihoods. We have empowered over 10,000 students in the region, especially women, to launch their online businesses. No award or accolade is greater than that,” concluded Refai.

Refai is a marketing maven; startup pro; young global Arabic influencer and entrepreneur; and an inspirational female leader with over half a million followers across her social platforms, two million views on YouTube, and the number-one ranked arabic business podcast in the Mena region (The Secrets of Marketing with Sarah Refai).

The Canadian Lebanese serial entrepreneur launched Dawrati Online – one of the only programmes in the region, and globally, for Arabic speakers, that employs an involved and end-to-end approach to helping coaches launch and monetise their knowledge and skillsets in the digital world. Apart from specific tools and tips, the programme shares Sarah’s signature “success strategy” that helped her create a viable source of revenue from her courses.

From speaking at the Harvard Arab Alumni Association panel 2021 to receiving the “Two Comma Club” award from ClickFunnels for being the first Arab female entrepreneur to earn a million dollars in a year, Sarah continues to set new benchmarks for herself. But in her own words, she believes her greatest achievement is being one of the first to introduce Arabic content in the e-learning industry and empower the next generation of coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs, and content creators.

— sandhya@khaleejtimes.com

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