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Women of Empowerment
They all dared to challenge the system.

ShakiraShakira
Singer/Entertainer

Power Factors: She’s young. She’s hot. She’s mega-talented, and she’s managed to take advantage of her Columbian and Lebanese roots to create an industry of her own. Shakira shook her hips and sang her way to an estimated $38 million in 2007, which by the way, is more than Mariah Carey ($13 million), Britney Spears ($8 million), Sheryl Crow ($6 million) and Norah Jones ($5.5 million) combined!

The petite entertainer has spent her free time—between selling out 20,000 seat venues across the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East— campaigning for President Obama, headlining at the Latino-themed New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace hotel and buying her grandparents’ old home in Lebanon. Her work with her foundation Pies Descalzos and Latin America in Solidarity (ALAS) earned her a Humanitarian of the Year award from “People en Espanol.” She has garnered Grammys and serves as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.

Shakira, who’s family went bankrupt when she was a child, resisted the makeshift drugs (whiffing gasoline and chemicals to forget their hunger and misery) that others used in Columbia, and she vowed to rise above it all.

“We had a comfortable life, and then one day, I was shown something else. From that day on, I became obsessed to vindicate my family, my family’s economic situation and to one day help those kids that I saw on the streets,” says the singer about her foundation.

On order for 2009 is another groundbreaking album, which she reports that she is “quite pregnant with.” And she says inspiration, “is from the way humans react and live and behave inspires me and fuels my songs. Imagination also plays an important role. All writers have a little bit of a liar or exaggerator in them. All women exaggerate, and I’m no exception. So when I write my songs, I exaggerate a bit.”

One thing that’s not exaggerated is her impact on the world and proof positive that embracing who you are will get you places.

Dr. Nahed TaherDr. Nahed Taher
First female head of Saudi investment bank (Gulf one) and respected economist.

Power Factors: Not only has she captivated the economic world with her views and strategies on how intra-trade and intra-production should be encouraged in the Gulf region, but she is now capitalizing on all of that attention and focusing the spotlight on women’s issues such as driving in Saudi Arabia.

She’s pushing for the economic rights and future of the young generation in Saudi and the Gulf. “We have a government debt, and we have private sector debt now,” she says. “We understand that our wealth has to be wisely spent on projects for the future that can co-op with our Gulf countries. We have 60 percent of our population which are baby boomers, under 24-years-old. Hopefully we don't want them to be the baby losers in the future.”

As for women’s driving and equal rights for women in Saudi, “I cannot go completely against the wind, but driving for women and other rights are definitely a necessity now. It's becoming an economic need.”

If her resume tells us anything, it’s that marching behind Dr. Taher will result in change, and not some cyclical trend or fad.

 

Oprah WinfreyOprah Winfrey
Media Mogul and Educator

Power Factors: Leave it to the ruler of daytime television to pay it forward to the tune of the $40 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg, South Africa. The 28- building, 52-acre campus is dedicated to the ideal of women’s empowerment with computer-filled classrooms, indoor and outdoor theaters, museum- quality artwork, a yoga studio and a beauty salon.

“The goal of the school is to train the students as future leaders of their country,” says Winfrey. "These girls deserve to be surrounded by beauty, and beauty does inspire." In 2009, she’ll launch her own network—OWN—and we are betting that her mentoring of the women of tomorrow will continue on air as well.

 

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