A New Oprah Rising in the Middle East
This may come as a surprise, but television designed to make the world a better place is still possible. Amira Al Fadl is a charismatic interviewer who is making a mark with a show that is compelling and socially-relevant for an Arab-speaking, predominately female audience in the Middle East.
David Brancaccio spoke with The Amira Show's Executive Producer, Jamil Abu-Wardeh in Dubai, UAE.
"It's a bit like the Arab Oprah Winfrey. The woman's name is Amira [and] she's a great Saudi Woman who is an inspiration to a lot of women. She's done it for herself, and she hosts cases of women...who are helping others achieve."
The show's structure is simple: Amira has conversations with women who, according to Abu-Wardeh, "have done it for themselves," and then brings on women who are currently in a similar situation. By interviewing accomplished Middle Eastern women, Amira tries to not only shatter gender stereotypes, but also make a difference to women who feel disempowered.
On an episode on underage marriage, a Yemeni woman, married at eleven, overcomes an abusive relationship to become a success story:
"By the nature of the marriage, it's rape," Abu-Wardeh said, "but she managed to giver her husband a very hard time, and she was returned to her family by age twelve. But then [she] worked her way up, I mean she worked in TV, in Yemeni television, lying saying that the was sixteen when she was twelve. She's in her late thirties now, and she is the cultural attachÃ© for Yemen in Paris. She's written a book, made a movie, written another book. [...] By educating herself and by working hard, she managed to empower herself, and she's achieved that kind of role: she's an inspiration to other women."
On that same episode, Amira featured a young Egyptian woman in a similar abusive marriage. The show paid for the services of a lawyer to champion her case, and Amira and Abu-Wardeh plan to check up on her progress.
Now in its second season, the Amira show is growing in popularity and has developed a following in key countries such as Saudi Arabia. Â It's carried on the Al Aan TV network, which originates from Dubai, and is available throughout the Middle East and France via satellite.