QUEEN RANIA OF JORDAN

"I pray five times a day, I fast", I do all the things that my religion requires me to do," she said in Harper's Bazaar interview. "But, you know, maybe one day I will wear the veil - I don't rule it out." Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah is a mother, a wife, a boss, an advocate, and a humanitarian. Born Rania al Yassin on 31 August 1970 in Kuwait City and is the current Queen consort of Jordan as the wife of King Abdullah II of Jordan. Queen Rania speaks on behalf of a variety of causes, both at home and abroad. In Jordan, her work concentrates on the calibre and quality of education for Jordanian children, while abroad she advocates for global education and for world leaders to fulfil their commitments towards the second Millennium Development Goal, Universal Primary Education. Jordan's queen is not of royal lineage herself. Instead, is of Palestinian heritage, from a family whose roots go back to an area near the West Bank of the Jordan River. This land was once a part of Palestine, but annexed by Jordan after the 1948 Arab - Israeli War, and taken by Israel in 1967; it then became part of the disputed "West Bank" territories central to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Because of the instability, Rania's father, a paediatrician, settled in Kuwait in the early 1960s. He and his wife prospered there, and would become parents to three children. Rania was educated at private schools in the city. She went on to American University in Cairo, where she earned a degree in business administration. Upon her graduation, she worked briefly in marketing for Citibank, followed by a job with Apple Inc. in Amman. She was ranked as the third most beautiful woman in the world by Harpers and Queen magazine in 2005. Jordan's Queen Rania is one of the Middle East's most intriguing public figures, and has been called the new face of Islamic feminism in the twenty-first century. This mother of four works tirelessly to improve conditions for her country's disadvantaged, and regularly steps onto the world stage to promote and enhance Jordan's image abroad. "I am an Arab through and through, but I am also one who speaks the international language," she told Newsweek International."I feel I do represent a large segment of women in the Arab world. I share with them their hopes and aspirations and the challenges they face." Rania and Abdullah began their family in 1994, with the arrival of a son, whom they named Hussein in honor of his grandfather. He was followed by sisters Iman, born in 1996, and Salma, in 2000. By then, however, much had changed for the young couple: King Hussein was stricken with cancer, and died in February of 1999. Just before he passed away, he changed his will and named Rania's husband as his designated heir. The news stunned Jordan, and Rania, too. "There had been so many rumours, so much speculation," she told Harper's Bazaar. "But I remember that day, I was going through a pile of pictures, organizing them, and my husband walks in and says, 'Rania, it's going to be me.' I remember saying,'All right.' " Rania has no official role or duties as queen according to Jordan's constitution, yet she chose to use her position to promote a number of social issues and important charities. King Abdullah has been supportive of Rania's work, and named her to head his Royal Commission on Human Rights. In that capacity, the new queen added her voice to those of several progressive Jordanian activists campaigning for change in the country's divorce law. In 2002, Jordan's parliament passed a temporary set of laws that granted women the right to initiate divorce proceedings, but they were rescinded two years later. Rania has also joined other Jordanian women and human - rights activists in calling for an end to the so - called "honour killings" in the nation of five million. In some cases, when a woman in Jordan is the victim of sexual assault, or is suspected of engaging in premarital sex, she is murdered by her male relatives. Under Jordanian law, these murders are subject to less stringent penalties than other capital crimes. She is also a tireless advocate for children, and even before becoming queen made child - abuse prevention a priority. In Jordan, child abuse cases are thought to be vastly underreported, and the matter was almost never discussed publicly. Rania launched the Child Safety Program in 1998, and also established Dar Al Aman ("Home of Safety") for young victims of abuse. The shelter is the first of its kind in the Arab world. <inline """"""""""""""="" """"font-weight:"""""="" bold;"="" """"""""="">Political Opinion She has spoken publicly of the need for women in the Arab world to take a more active role in the peace process, and has also distanced herself from the extremist measures adopted by suicide bombers. "Palestinians have to have the moral courage to say killing civilians isn't right," she asserted to Times of London journalist Daniel McGrory. "Both sides see themselves as victims, and when you feel victimised it justifies anything you do, no matter how crazy or out of control it is, so you think it's OK to bomb innocent civilians and it's OK to invade towns and cities." The list of Rania's other projects is a long one: she sits on the board of directors of the Vaccine Fund, established the Jordan River Foundation to provide small - business loans for folk artisans living in some of the country's poorest villages, and has worked with education authorities to ensure that every schoolchild in Jordan has access to a computer. Her progressive ideas have made her the target of some criticism, mainly from Jordan's conservative Muslim clerics. Others deride her fashionable wardrobe and the adulation with which the Western media seems to treat her. She does not wear the traditional headscarf common or even required by law in some quarters of the Muslim world. "I pray five times a day, I fast, I do all the things that my religion requires me to do," she said in the in Harper's Bazaar interview with DePaulo. "But, you know, maybe one day I will wear the veil - I don't rule it out." <inline """"""""""""""="" """"font-weight:"""""="" bold;"="" """"""""="">Education and health Over the past few years, Queen Rania has launched, championed, and given patronage to several initiatives in education and learning. In July 2005, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, the King and Queen launched an annual teachers’ award - the Queen Rania Award for Excellence in Education. Queen Rania - World Economic Forum on the Middle East Dead Sea Jordan 2007. The Queen is Chairperson of Jordan's first interactive children's museum. Opened in May 2007, it aims to encourage and nurture lifelong learning for children and their families. In April 2008 the Queen launched “Madrasati” (“My School”); a public-private initiative aimed at refurbishing 500 of Jordan’s public schools over a five-year period. In higher education, the Queen Rania Scholarship Program partners with several universities from around the world. Queen Rania is also Chairperson of the Royal Health Awareness Society (RHAS) <inline """"""""""""""="" """"font-weight:"""""="" bold;"="" """"""""="">Community empowerment Queen Rania's first venture was the establishment of the Jordan River Foundation (JRF) in 1995. The Jordan River Children Program (JRCP) was developed by Queen Rania to place children’s welfare above political agendas and cultural taboo. This led to the launch, in 1998, of JRF’s Child Safety Program, which addresses the immediate needs of children at risk from abuse and initiated a long-term campaign to increase public awareness about violence against children. The deaths of two children in Amman as a result of child abuse in early 2009 led Queen Rania to call for an emergency meeting of government and non-government (including JRF) stakeholders to discuss where the system was failing. In 2009, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her husband's accession to the throne, Queen Rania launched a community champion award (Ahel Al Himmeh) in March to highlight the accomplishments of groups and individuals who have helped their local communities. She pursues a progressive social and economic agenda. She has promoted the creation of child abuse counselling centres "There wasn't even terminology for child abuse when I got involved," she says and fought to end the controversial "honour killings", murders committed by men punishing sisters or daughters who have "dishonoured" their family, often by violating social traditions. <inline """"""""""""""="" """"font-weight:"""""="" bold;"="" """"""""="">Youth Queen Rania has stated that an essential aspect of education is to equip young people with the necessary skills to perform well in the workplace. She initiated the Al-Aman Fund for the Future of Orphans in 2003, and has partnered with international universities providing scholarships for Jordanian students abroad. She supports Junior Achievement Worldwide, which was established by Save the Children in 1999 and launched as a Jordanian non-profit organization by the Queen in 2001. In her capacity as Regional Ambassador of INJAZ Arabia, she has taught classes, and engaged in dialogue with young people in other countries; she also launched INJAZ’s presence elsewhere in the Arab world. At the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, she launched the "Empowering One Million Arab Youth by 2018" campaign, which was conceived by INJAZ Arabia <inline """"""""""""""="" """"font-weight:"""""="" bold;"="" """"""""="">Global education In November 2000, in recognition of her commitment to the cause of children and youth, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) invited Queen Rania to join its Global Leadership Initiative. The Queen works alongside other world leaders, including former South African President Nelson Mandela, in a global movement seeking to improve the welfare of children. In January 2007, Queen Rania was named UNICEF's first Eminent Advocate for Children. In August 2009, Queen Rania became Honorary Global Chair of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). As a long time supporter of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), Queen Rania met with children and inspirational women in South Africa, both in the cities of Johannesburg and Soweto, in March 2009. Queen Rania and the women took turns reading a short story out of The Big Read to the children, in an effort to encourage literacy. One of the stories in the book, “Maha of the Mountains”, was contributed by Queen Rania. In Soweto, she was the first to write her name in the back of the Big Read, before passing it on to everyone else to write their name. During her April 2009 US trip, Queen Rania joined leading education advocates Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Counsellor to the Secretary of the Treasury Gene Sperling to launch "The Big Read" as part of Global Campaign for Education's global action week calling for quality basic education for all children. She was also hosted by first lady, Michelle Obama, during that same trip. On August 20, 2009, Queen Rania co-founded and led the launch of the "1GOAL: Education for All" campaign alongside Gary Lineker, and with the help of top international footballers at Wembley Stadium, London, Britain. She co-founder and global co-chair of the 1GOAL campaign to rally World Cup 2010 fans together during the world’s biggest single sporting event and call on world leaders to give 75 million children out of school an education. On October 6, 2009, Queen Rania was joined by Gordon Brown of the UK, the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and other heads of state, for the Global Launch of 1GOAL, which took place across six locations worldwide. Queen Rania spoke of the need to turn this “tragedy into triumph” and called on political leaders to stand by their aid commitments. In 2008, Queen Rania participated in YouTube's In My Name campaign. She appeared alongside The Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am in the video, "End Poverty – Be the Generation," which urged world leaders to keep the promises they made in 2000 at the United Nations Millennium Summit. Rania has pushed for education reform, fighting for better school facilities and mandatory English language training. She is also an enthusiastic supporter of the micro-fund movement which provides financial assistance to would-be entrepreneurs. And while some say she has overstepped her bounds, she continues to discuss formerly taboo topics. "The approach should be to talk about it, bring it to the surface not to sweep it under the rug," she insists. <inline """"""""""""""="" """"font-weight:"""""="" bold;"="" """"""""="">Cross-cultural dialogue Queen Rania has also been particularly vocal about the importance of cross cultural and interfaith dialogue to foster greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance across the world. She has used her status to correct what she sees as misconceptions in the West about the Arab world. Forbes magazine ranked her as one of the world's 100 most powerful women in 2011. Queen Rania has played a significant role in reaching out to the global community to foster values of tolerance and acceptance, and increase cross-cultural dialogue. For example, regionally and internationally, Queen Rania has campaigned for a greater understanding between cultures in such high profile forums as the Jeddah Economic Forum, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Skoll Foundation in the UK. Queen Rania has also used YouTube as a way to promote intercultural dialogue by calling on young people around the world to engage in a global dialogue to dismantle stereotypes of Muslims and the Arab world. She has also made public appearances, including a half-hour television interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show on May 17, 2006, where she spoke about misconceptions about Islam and women's role in Islam. For her work in reaching out across cultures she received the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe in March 2009 and the first ever YouTube Visionary Award in November 2008. For her work in cross-cultural peace dialogue Queen Rania accepted the PeaceMaker Award from the Non-Profit Seeds of Peace. <inline """"""""""""""="" """"font-weight:"""""="" bold;"="" """"""""="">International forums and foundations In September 2002, Queen Rania joined the World Economic Forum (WEF) Foundation Board.  She is also on the Foundation Board of the Forum of Young Global Leaders. Over the years, Queen Rania has attended WEF many times, and participated in panels, plenary sessions, and private sessions that have dealt with diverse topics, including corporate global citizenship, youth, education reform, women, sustainability, global citizenship, philanthropy, and multiculturalism. In May 2009, Queen Rania attended the fifth Young Global Leaders Summit at the Dead Sea, Jordan, to address socio-economic challenges facing the region and had trips organized for the Young Global Leaders in which they visited local Madrasati schools, the Jordan River Foundation, and other affiliated organizations. When it comes to youth, in early 2002 Queen Rania joined the Board of Directors of the International Youth Foundation, based in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States. In September 2006, Queen Rania also joined the United Nations Foundation Board of Directors. The UN Foundation builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach. <inline """"""""""""""="" """"font-weight:"""""="" bold;"="" """"""""=""> Microfinance In September 2003, Queen Rania accepted an invitation to join the Board of Directors of the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA), thus formalizing a relationship of support and advocacy which began in 2000. An emissary for the United Nations’ International Year of Microcredit in 2005, Queen Rania’s belief in microfinance and her partnership with FINCA has generated more Jordanian micro-businesses, with the official opening of FINCA Jordan in February 2008. Known for her business savvy, elegance and outspokenness, Queen Rania has divided opinion between those who feel she should take a more traditional role and those who see her as a shining example for Arab women. "I am an Arab through and through," she insists. "But I am also one who speaks the international language." With her excellent command of the English language, Rania is comfortable speaking with foreign dignitaries and Western journalists alike. Even on matters that require the utmost diplomatic skill, she seems at ease. Just a few weeks after the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, in which Arab men hijacked four airliners, she visited New York City to show her sympathy and support. In mid - 2002, Psychology Today editor Robert Epstein asked her what advice she might give to Americans, from the perspective of a person from a part of the world that has been regularly plagued by politically - fuelled violence during her lifetime. "There's been a feeling all over the world of collective moral consciousness" since 9/11, Rania ventured. "We feel that what happens in different countries in the world is important to us. That is a positive thing, we need to build on that. So I would advise the American people to learn about what happens in other parts of the world, to get to know the Arab world, the Islamic world and to try to understand that there's nothing to fear in that society." Jordan's famously photogenic queen has sometimes been compared to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who was also a tireless social - aid advocate. Yet Rania is determined to forge her own path, and serve as a beacon for a troubled part of the world. "People in the West view Arab women as being very conservative . . . not necessarily being educated," she commented in the Newsweek International interview with Klaidman and Bartholet. "And the truth of the matter is that we have many brilliant women who are very forward - looking." She noted in another interview that one of the most crucial revelations she has had since becoming queen came about because she was suddenly travelling so widely. Visiting other parts of the world like Africa and Asia and meeting people there, she told Psychology Today's Epstein, helped her recognize "that, although on the outside they may do things differently, at the end of the day, they're just like us. They have the same hopes and fears; they want the same things out of life. Parents worry about their children, people worry about their health, their future, and their jobs." She also makes sure there is plenty of quality time with her four children: Prince Hussein, Princess Iman, Princess Salma and Prince Hashem. "I make it a point and find comfort in tucking them into bed at night, reading them their favourite bedtime stories and reciting verses from the Koran to them as they sleep," Best Known For Queen Rania of Jordan is best known for her advocacy work in public health, education and as an outspoken opponent of the practice of "honour killings." Queen Rania Al-Abdullah  - Wife, Mother, Women's Rights Activist, Business Leader, Political Leader, Queen and 1One4 Icon.

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