NAYA | LEAP Conference: Talks from diverse fields

“The wave that doesn’t drown you, will teach you to swim better”
by Danah Kaouri

19 November 2018 | 12:38

Source: by Annahar

  • by Danah Kaouri
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 19 November 2018 | 12:38

Actress and activist Darine Hamzeh (L) with students at the LEAP conference Sunday. (Annahar/Danah Kaouri)

BEIRUT: On Sunday, the Women in Engineering (WIE) club at the American University of Beirut held their first sizable conference under the title Lead, Empower, Aspire, Progress (LEAP), which included women leadership speakers from various fields ranging from fashion to the legal and political spheres.

The talks were given to an audience mainly comprised of young, inspired women, eager to learn and voice their opinion. One of the various notable women who took part in the conference was MP Paula Yacoubian.

The MP started her discussion by stating that she has faith that change in this country will be led by women. Yacoubian mentioned that women are able to contribute to the political field, but the only thing that discourages them is the way they were raised. “Girls are often told that the political field is not for them.” She also highlighted that women in different fields “put extra effort unknowingly, because they know they have to prove themselves and this leads to better and effective results.”

According to Yacoubian, women’s participation in political and national decision making is a right and that it’s important for half of the population to be represented.

The deputy touched upon the LGBTQ+ rights issue, reiterating the need to establish equality for all nationwide. 

Yacoubian also shed a light on the corruption engulfing Lebanon, alluding to “fearmongering” that's hindering progresses and pitting citizens against each other. 

Nataly Nasser El Deen, founder of Pink Steps, an initiative established three years ago to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle among breast cancer survivors in Lebanon, gave the audience an inspiring talk about her personal story and different experiences. 

During the 2006 war, when Nasser El Deen was 15 and had the chance to spend a year in the US to attend high school, she was encouraged by her mother to take this opportunity and left in a military helicopter to Cyprus. Now, Nasser El Deen is a Cell and Molecular Biology Ph.D. student at AUB on a Fulbright Scholarship and was invited to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in Germany to share her experience.

The Pink Steps founder recounted how she accepted into the huge Lindau event, encouraging ambitious women to defy the odds. 

“Never be afraid to apply to anything, even if you think there are more competent people applying.” Nasser El Deen said.

On the legal front, lawyer Danielle Yacoub highlighted that the root problem in Arab society stems from one’s upbringing. She emphasized how mothers should raise their sons and daughters the same way. The lawyer talked about the progress Lebanon is currently witnessing, thanks in part to the "milestone" legislation regarding domestic violence. 

Last but not least, from the fashion field, Reem Acra, a renowned designer, gave an interactive talk and encouraged the audience to ask her questions about her experience. Acra recalled the moment she knew she wanted to become a fashion designer, “It was at the first fashion show in the Arab World held here at AUB in 1982” said the designer. “When I was on stage, that was the moment when I decided what my career will be,” she added.

Acra maintained the normalcy of being confused and uncertain about what career to choose, highlighting the importance of "dedicating yourself to the profession you choose." 

“These conferences are very inspirational to me, they push us to go beyond our limits and invest and believe in ourselves,” said Marie-Joe Chahine, an electrical engineering student.


Welcome to “Naya”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment.

We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya editor, Sally Farhat:

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