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Amat Al Alim Alsoswa was the only girl in a group of eight children who produced a musical show for children, organized by a local radio station. She was a contestant among 20 boys. Abdurrahman Muthar, the radio director at that time, told her that it was not because she could sing but because she had courage that she was able to join the chorus. It was at the age of 12 that Alsoswa, the media star and news presenter, sat for the first time in front of a microphone. She is today Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator of UNDP and Director of its Regional Bureau for Arab States.
She led a team of a thousand girls. They planted trees, cleaned cemeteries and visited hospitals. At 17, she visited the local TV station whose director suggested that she read the news. Amat Al Alim recalls: ‘My hair was pulled back and I did not wear any makeup. I was scared to face the camera looking like that. I tried to weasel out but I was instructed to present the news that night. The following morning, I was the news of the city.’
Alsoswa holds a B.A in Mass Communications from the University of Cairo. She was trained at Sawt Al-Arab Radio in Cairo where she established strong ties with prominent media figures. She obtained an M.A. in International Communications at the American University in Washington D.C. in 1984. She was later hired as culture show presenter and show director.
She became popular during the ruling party conference in Yemen. She is the first Yemeni woman to become ambassador to Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands (2000-2001). In 2001, she became Yemen’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
She worked as a consultant to the UNDP on poverty alleviation in Sana’a. She was appointed in senior positions, namely as Deputy Information Minister. She is the first Yemeni woman to become minister when she was appointed as Minister for Human Rights. This was her last position before she was appointed Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator of UNDP and Director of its Regional Bureau for Arab States.
In her new position, Alsoswa, ‘the wise woman’, has brought in her own ideas for improvement and effective participation. When asked about her vision regarding the promotion of Arab women in an interview with the website Dar Al-Khaleej El-Imaratiya after her appointment, she replied, ‘Arab women’s development is not unrelated to social development. Arab women cannot cherish their legitimate rights in a country that does not believe in these rights or rejects them in words and deeds.’
In addition to her devotion to Arab women’s concerns and challenges, Amat Al Alim is a gifted writer though she keeps her novel manuscripts unpublished. She is also a high-calibre intellectual who is believed to have served her country well in the field of international media where her name is repeatedly mentioned. One also considers her to be one of many who have played an important role in the modernization of Yemeni society. Wasn’t she who said: ‘If you want to do something, pull out all your guns?’ Alsoswa initiated the country’s first national human rights report. She is fluent in English, Russian, French and Arabic, her mother tongue.
She has received the Italian Marisa Belisario’s Award and an award from The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in recognition for her huge role in supporting human rights and women’s rights in particular.