Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser: A Global Visionary

Qatar's First Lady Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned attends a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on March
Qatar's First Lady Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned attends a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 1, 2013 in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Not many Americans know about the global role played by Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, the first Lady of Qatar, wife of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar.

Her Highness, who presides over the Qatar Foundation, has been tirelessly devoting her efforts to empowering women, fostering cultural diversity and in particular, promoting education. Her passion and commitment to enhancing quality education began as early as 1995 when her husband, His Highness the Emir of Qatar, took over the helm of power in the State of Qatar. Since its inception in 1995, Sheikha Moza has been personally guiding Qatar Foundation with passion and enthusiasm. Its flagship project, Education City, involves several world-class universities such as Georgetown University, Carnegie Melon University and Northwestern University just to mention a few.

Sheikha Moza is in New York City this week to showcase her Educate A Child initiative (EAC). She will also be hosting an musical evening at the Jazz Lincoln Center, a partner of the Qatar Foundation.

Within that context, I characterized, at the beginning of this article, the role of the First Lady of Qatar as global. Her efforts are not confined to the boundaries of the State of Qatar. I will explain why:

For starters, Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser is UNESCO's Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education. Last November, she launched her initiative Educate a Child, a global initiative that aims to deliver quality primary education to millions of children across the world.

EAC initiative is partnering with international institutions to bring high quality learning to 61 million children deprived of school due to extreme poverty, conflict, natural disasters, prejudice or any of the factors that can make them hard to reach conventional means.

At the same time, Sheikha Moza's initiative, which is closely tied to the initiative of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, called Education First, launched last September (she is on the steering committee of this initiative) and is leading the drive for universal education.

Her Highness firmly believes that even when the challenge of reaching out to school children may be daunting, we can't turn away. Governments have an obligation to act urgently and to fully commit to this task. She has always stressed that quality education should be a right for both genders. Speaking in Doha at the launch of EAC at the World innovation Summit on Education (WISE), she said "Educate A Child initiative is collaborating with the world's most expert partners -- partners with broad global reach, and partners with deep local roots. This is how we bring quality learning to millions of children."

So far EAC has more than 25 projects in countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It has succeeded in enabling more than 500,000 children to access primary and basic education. As you may well know, the second goal of the Millennium Development Goals is universal primary education, and EAC aims to bring renewed momentum to the global effort to break out of the vicious circle in which depriving children of their right to education adversely impacts national development efforts. After all, when you educate a child, you educate an entire generation of girls and boys.

When Sheikha Moza assumed a leading role in promoting women's empowerment and advancing quality education, she broke the mould and shattered the stereotype that Arab women are often walking in the shadows of their own husbands, only playing a second fiddle to them. True, the First Lady of Qatar is stylish and elegant -- but she is also a global visionary and a role model for other women, particularly women in the Arab region.

I hope that her work would inspire and encourage others to follow suit and join the global efforts in delivering quality primary education to millions of boys and girls across the world.