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 attaché 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.  It's carried on the Al Aan TV network, which originates from Dubai, and is available throughout the Middle East and France via satellite.

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