Dissident’s Daughter, Crusader for Health and Women’s Rights: Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al-Missned

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al-Missned

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al-Missned

When Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, mother of current Emir of Qatar, inaugurated WISH 2020 (World Summit For Health) in Doha in November, she did so in her official capacity as president of the Qatar Foundation.

Her unofficial role was once described as “the enlightened face of a profoundly conservative regime”. She is the daughter of a prominent Qatari dissident, Nasser bin Abdullah Al-Misned, who — once released from prison — led his extended family into exile in Kuwait.

Bint Nasser, born in 1959, lived there from age five to 18. Her family returned to Qatar for her marriage to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who had just been appointed Crown Prince of the Emirate. The couple had five sons and two daughters, and their second son is the current Emir of Qatar.

In 1995, Bint Nasser and her husband founded the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) with the aim of supporting Qatar “on its journey from a carbon economy to a knowledge economy, by unlocking human potential”.

After seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1995, Sheikh Hamad oversaw an increase in natural gas production — to 77 million tonnes — making it the world’s richest country per-capita, with an average income in excess of $85,000. He realised that the country needed to diversify its economy and invest wisely. Moza Bint Nasser was the perfect figurehead for the foundation, a non-profit comprising 50 entities. It has partnerships with leading international institutions, and Bint Nasser has proved adept at spearheading national and international development projects.

Domestically, Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser serves as chairperson of the QF and courts leading global educational institutions to set up campuses in the emirates Education City. Eight universities — six American, one British and one French — have branch campuses at Education City, including University College London, HEC Paris, and Georgetown.

As vice-chair of the Supreme Council of Health from 2009-2014, Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser was responsible for major healthcare reforms. Since 2016, she has been president of Sidra Medicine, a training and research hospital that is a leading institution caring for women and children.

Internationally, she founded Education Above All (EEA). Its goal is “to contribute to human, social and economic development through the provision of quality education, with a particular focus on those affected by poverty, conflict, and disaster”. The organisation has committed to enrolling 10.4 million schoolchildren worldwide, and has Graça Machel — former first lady of Mozambique and widow of Nelson Mandela — on its Board of Trustees. Also on the board is Koichiro Matsuura, former director-general of UNESCO. As a Special Envoy, Moza Bint Nasser has promoted higher education in Iraq, and is active in addressing youth unemployment in the MENA region.

Living in a part of the world where women have been historically and culturally regarded as subservient, she is an active campaigner against domestic violence. Always impeccably turned-out in a style which embraces Middle Eastern and Western fashion, Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser has proven the perfect ambassador for her country as it seeks to raise its global profile.

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