It’s no secret that the easiest path is usually the one we know others will approve of. But that’s far from the way Dalal Al-Waheidi has chosen to live her life.
"Having the confidence to pursue unconventional things is most important in being successful," says Dalal, 27.
Young, bright and accomplished, is the chief operating director at Free The Children, a youth-driven organization helping children in over 45 countries get education. And she was one of the honourees at the recent Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 summit.
At the event, she stood in front of 1,000 people and shared the story of her extraordinary life.
Born in Palestine — where women are not allowed to have much voice, let alone extensive education — Dalal, at age 17, left her home to pursue higher education abroad. She was selected by ministries of education in both Norway and Palestine to attend the Red Cross Nordic United World College, where students from over 80 countries are chosen based on their leadership qualities.
In Norway, she worked hard to fight the stereotypes people have of Palestinian youth as well as tackle her own misperceptions of her Israeli neighbours. She was also a founder of a group of Palestinian and Israeli youth cooperating to set a positive example.
She later moved to Canada and attended Trent University where she earned a B.A. in international development and political science.
"At times, being away from home is difficult but my family has always supported me," Dalal says. She brightens up whenever she talks about her mother, whom she talks to over the phone at least every other day.
Dalal first started working at Free The Children as the international projects director, overseeing development and humanitarian operations.
She spent seven months in Ecuador working with street children as well as traveling in both the Middle East and Latin America.
Now as the chief operating director, Dalal manages over 100 staff members and other daily operations. In the past three years that she’s been with Free the Children, the organization has grown 30 per cent.
And as a woman who came from a country where women do not have the same opportunities as we do here in Canada, Dalal believes that we are all capable of becoming anything we dream of.
"We’re not here to conform to one dream. In a country like Canada, you can be the woman you want to be," says Dalal.