Here are the first ten of our inspiring Raemona 40 over Forty list for 2023!
Ten bold women from around the world, and based in the UAE from the worlds of media, publishing, food, retail, mental health care, wellness, film making and training . Continually holding the highest of standards and pushing boundaries to excel - we admire and salute them all.
We’ll be sharing our 40 over FORTY every Monday in March 2023, and we can’t wait to share the other 30 ladies on the list throughout the month, but for now, meet this first group of 10 amazing women.
Co- Founder and Executive Chef, Vietnamese Foodies
In less than five short years, Lily Hoa Nguyen has established the region’s leading Vietnamese restaurant brand, Vietnamese Foodies. Under Nguyen’s leadership, the brand has grown from one location in JLT, Dubai in 2018 to five locations in 2023.
The trajectory of Lily’s brand success has been a joy to witness - not least because it marks her very first step into entrepreneurship and that Vietnamese Foodies is her first professional role in the hospitality industry.
Lily is a Vietnamese national who has been practising her craft since she was 5-years old and has spent her adult life cooking Vietnamese food in Saigon, Paris, Istanbul and Dubai. Lily is passionate about serving up the best of Vietnamese dishes and also about sharing secrets to a perfect home-cooked Vietnamese meals through her cooking classes.
Nguyen is notable for her staff culture and attitude to looking after her employees. With a ‘people over profits’ outlook, Vietnamese Foodies most definitely felt the brunt of the pandemic, but not only survived, it has gone on to thrive, and how. Nguyen made no Covid-19 related redundancies and ensured that there were no pay-cuts for her team.
Along with formal professional development and regular recognition of staff, Nguyen also gives one day’s revenue (minus food costs) to her staff annually to thank them for their hard work and to celebrate Lunar New Year.
Managing Director and Clinical Psychologist, Lighthouse Arabia
Dr Saliha continues to be the leading light in the battle not only for mental health education, but by sharing her daily and weekly wisdom that helps us all as founder of leading mental health centre Lighthouse Arabia.
Many of us will have seen one of Dr Saliha’s live public sessions over the past two years, and it is hard to miss her passion and commitment to making a difference in this area, all done with impeccable grace, beauty, and style.
Raised and educated in the US, Dr. Saliha moved to Dubai in 2008, and worked at a private practice for several years, and in 2011 co-founded The LightHouse Arabia with the intention of making a positive impact on the mental health of individuals and families living in the region.
“The most important person you will ever meet is your true self, the most important lessons you will ever learn are the ones you already knew, and the most important journey you will ever take is the inner journey” says Dr. Saliha.
Instagram handle: @lighthousearabia
3. Sharon James
Women’s Wellness and Menopause Coach
As a women’s health coach for 30 years, Sharon James approached her ‘third stage’ of life with a new impetus.
Realising that despite being in the best shape of her life, fitness and mental health wise with a healthy diet and plentiful opportunities for physical adventure and challenge - something was changing, nothing had changed, but everything was changing.
Sharon needed to apply her years of experience with clients and study of the Menopause on herself. She realised that she was not exempt and her own time had come aged 44.
Utilising her own methods on herself, Sharon felt back in control.
8 years later, Sharon wants every woman to embrace their menopausal years and enable them to move through the transition positively .
Sharon’s mission is to end with the negative narrative that surrounds menopause and create a positive can-do mindset.
Instagram handle: @sharonjamescoaching
CEO, Ti22 Films, Producer & Director
Working in the Dubai media industry since 2007, Reim quickly became a vocal proponent for women in the industry, and the prolific work has spoken for itself. Working in the exhilarating, dynamic, and frankly, stressful medium of live TV, Reim is a prolific networker and advocate for utilising visual media in self branding and business and brand visibility.
Founding Ti22 Films and ‘Dubai On Demand’ - Reim has given opportunities to hundreds of crew and launched presenters careers across the UAE.
Notably, Ti22 Films was commissioned by the host broadcaster of Expo 2020, Dubai Media Incorporated, to produce a daily live studio show entitled Studio Expo. As Executive Producer it was Reim’s responsibility to create a show that was both entertaining and educational and showcased to the world the activities, the innovations and the experience that was Expo 2020. The show aired daily on Dubai One TV as well as on Expo TV reaching a global audience.
In 2023, this led to another daily show production, with the launch of DXB Today, broadcasting live, on weekday evenings on Dubai One television.
Instagram handle: @ti22films
Retail Consultant, Founder, Talking Shop
A sales professional with over 15 years experience, Camilla started her UAE career with Dubizzle. Moving into e-commerce with Souq.com in 2011, she never looked back and very quickly established herself as a category expert in the baby and child sector. Moving from Souq to Mumzworld, she cemented herself amongst not only the go to knowledge on all things ‘baby gear’ but within the consumer mums community also with her friendly, down to earth personality alongside her clear passion for the products and service focused attitude to ‘running shop’. Camilla got the opportunity to build and run her own bricks and mortar outlets as well as lead on e-commerce solutions as Managing Director of Db Babies across the UAE before partnering to create, launch and build the Five Little Ducks premium baby and child boutique outlets across the Emirates. Now a mother of 3 - Camilla’s solid experience and expert advice leads her to consult on retail operations for brands small to mega and lift the retail experience for both business owners and the customer, right where they need it most, whatever the industry and shares her knowledge on everything from staffing, financial management, visual merchandising, marketing and customer experience for both e-commerce and bricks and mortar operations.
Instagram handle: @talkingshop.me
Founder, The Ethicalist Magazine
Anthea is Founder of independent, sustainable lifestyle platform, The Ethicalist and a hands on managing editor. The Ethicalist has quickly established itself as a trusted ‘must read’ source on original, quality content as a new multi-media platform to engage and inspire an audience who want to live their best life ethically and sustainably. The Ethicalist Delivering the most compelling news stories, empowering features and fresh, curated ideas on sustainable beauty, style, fashion, food and more.
Starting her career of almost 20 years in broadcast journalism across Europe and the Middle East, Anthea now has 10+ years of written journalism experience under her wings. With a strong focus on sustainability and humanitarian issues including women, child and animal rights. Anthea has travelled extensively to raise awareness of topical issues including maternal mortality in Afghanistan, child trafficking in Vietnam and a multitude of conservation issues across Africa and Asia.
Instagram handle: @ethicalistmag
Nayla Al-Khaja is the first female film writer, director and producer in the UAE. Al-Khaja's films have screened at more than 42 film festivals worldwide. She brings a wealth of experience and cultural knowledge to national and international projects.
In 2021, it was announced that a series from a concept Nayla devised will become an anthology. The first season, The Alexandria Killings, will have Oscar-winning director Terry George at the helm. Nayla is also the Executive Producer and is poised to direct some episodes.
Her latest film, The Shadow, caught the attention of a noted producer, for development into an international feature which will be called Three and now working with Netflix. Nayla is also scheduled to shoot a family adventure film, Magic Carpet – The Search for Now. The film will be shot across multiple continents and Nayla will assume the role of Director. Nayla is committed to telling stories that are true, authentic and uninhibited. She has been a top-tier speaker at the London Speakers Bureau, constantly advocating for women’s voices and presence in the film world. Her knowledge of Gulf dialects and five international languages provides her with a unique advantage when facilitating complex and sensitive projects both regionally and globally.
Nayla has also directed many TV commercials for international brands such as Mercedes, Nike, Nestlé, Neutrogena and Nivea, to name but a few in addition to high profile clients such as Annie Leibovitz and Roger Federer. She was also appointed as the Behind-The-Scenes Director on the mega-budget film Star Trek 3, by the Dubai Government.
Instagram Handle: @naylaalkhaja
Since moving to Dubai in 2005, Hanane features in the list for a second year running. She continues to trailblaze with innovation and entrepreneurship programs across the Arab World. She is an award winning senior consultant with a broad scope of expertise and exposure to international markets.
Hanane works today as the Executive Director of Sustain Leadership consultancies, as a culture change and certified innovation strategist, and supports corporates, government institutions, NGOs and SMEs in building human centric business models, and creating cultures of innovation. Hanane has pioneered a multitude of initiatives which stemmed from her passion to cultivate entrepreneurial and innovative mindsets, accelerate the gender balance agenda, and advance the MEA region towards a knowledge based economy.
Hanane founded Tawazoun, (which means balance in Arabic) the first think-do tank and platform in the Middle East that aims at cultivating balanced people, work environments and societies which continues to go from strength to strength. As a published author, with two co-authored books, Hanane recently published “SEEDS of Change”. Her articles are also published in Harvard Business Review Arabic, Forbes Middle East and Arabian Business among others.
Instagram handle: @hananebenkhallouk
Author, Chef, Food Entrepreneur
Zahra Abdalla describes herself as a modern day Bedouin. Half Iranian and half Sudanese, she was born in London, and has the luxury of calling Khartoum, Riyadh, Athens, Sacramento, London, Windsor, Vancouver, Toronto and Dubai home.
Zahra’s home is her working studio where I can make delicious traditional Arabic and Iranian food that have been passed on from one generation to another, and where I also get to play around and improvise in the kitchen and develop modern interpretation of Middle Eastern cuisine.
Zahra creates and shares recipes across her website and social media platforms and is the author of Cooking with Zahra (2019) “It truly is a celebration of and respect for tradition and modernity, as well as Eastern and Western culture and food.”
Most of the featured recipes are deeply influenced by Persian, Sudanese and Levantine cuisine. “Their recipes inspire one to create wholesome meals and create wonderful memories with your loved ones. Food is an expression of love and creativity.” Most recently, the award-winning cookbook author initiated a brand-new food delivery concept under the eponymous Zahra’s Kitchen, specialising in Middle Eastern renditions of her signature recipes.
Instagram Handle: @cookingwithzahra
10. Audrey Hametner
Founder, The Bedrock Program & COO, Upstrive
Working in Dubai since 2015, Audrey’s core focus is to empower real change in people's lives. She works to improve self-confidence, mental agility, and create future plans that encourage engaged employees and future leaders. The businesses she works with through Upstrive and The Bedrock Program are designed to improve the wellbeing and mental health of both youth and professionals.
With deep experience in business structures, management, processes, and people issues- She has managed teams across the globe in offices across, India, Europe, the Middle East, the USA, Canada, and Singapore. The Bedrock Program is a practice that specialises in career & confidence development for teens and young adults, working with individuals, schools, and universities and currently expanding into training youth work professionals to improve their work.
The award winning Upstrive is a tool that provides engagement and impact measurement for educational establishments and workplaces, and for businesses to measure performance and results.
Instagram Handle: @ahametner
Part 2 coming soon!