As a young girl, Jana was mesmerized by a sea of women in bright red hijabs on television. She watched as they toppled a regime, their chants resonating thirty minutes away from her grandparents’ house in Cairo. It was January 2011, the cusp of the Arab spring. In that moment, Jana vowed to become just like them: passionate, driven, and empowered. But when, at 10, she moved to the US, she felt alone and isolated. Everywhere, Jana saw her culture and religion being misrepresented. In the media, women who look like her were portrayed as victims, servants, even terrorists. Teachers told her that she would never write as well as her classmates, because she hadn't grown up reading the same books. This inspired her to become a bridge between the Middle East and the US, and uncover what she knew each girl possesses: a vision and a voice.
Jana’s global advocacy work, which has reached over 50,000 people thus far, is dedicated to increasing the participation of women and girls in decision and peace-making spaces, especially those in the Middle East. At 13, she raised $6,500 for HeyaMasr (She is Egypt) to run nutritional workshops, Anti sexual harassment training, and social empowerment programs for 25 girls living in Cairo slums. For her 17th birthday, she organized a six-hour virtual event advocating for girls’ education, featuring 17 speakers including Suzanne Ehlers, the CEO of the Malala Fund, and Dr. Rania Al-Mashaat, the Egyptian Minister of International Development.
Jana partners with the Collateral Repair Project and teaches English to refugees in Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, and Palestine, and has recruited 25 classmates to do the same. She is also the founder of J Strategy, the first-ever global organization connecting young women to the speaking opportunities they deserve. She has just graduated from Milton Academy, where she was co-head of the Muslim Student Association, leading school-wide activities to engage the community in learning about Islam.
Jana’s tireless efforts led to her speaking on a panel at the 2020 UN General Assembly discussing inclusive security. She interns at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative, where she is currently working with Tarek Masoud, Professor of Public Policy and International Relations at HKS, conducting a study with 4,500 participants on tolerance and homophobic attitudes in Muslim-majority countries using emotion AI technology. One of the Arab America Foundation’s ‘20 under 20’, she was also named an Education Honoree by the Conversationalist and a 2021 Global Teen Leader by the We Are Family Foundation.
If she wins, Jana will spend a portion of the funds to grow J Strategy and provide speakers with a small stipend. She would use a significant portion of the funds to help HeyaMasr and the Collateral Repair Project expand their reach to more women and girls in the MENA region. The remaining money would go towards her education at Harvard, where she is due to start in the fall.