Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa has such an outstanding record of achievement and has notched up so many firsts for Bahraini women that it is difficult to know where to start.
By the time that Her Excellency Shaikha Haya Rashid AlKhalifa was elected President of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly on 8 June 2006, she already had a glittering legal and diplomatic career behind her and served as an outstanding example of what Bahraini women were capable of in numerous fields. Shaikha Haya was only the third woman to hold the UN General Assembly presidency.
Shaikha Haya was one of the first two women to practice law in Bahrain, along with Lulwa al-Awadhi, after both women gained their credentials as lawyers in 1979.
She has held numerous senior positions with international legal organizations, including the International Bar Association. When Shaikha Haya was appointed vice-chairwoman of the arbitration and dispute resolution committee of the International Bar Organization in 1997, this made her the first woman from the Middle East to serve at this level in her field.
From 1999 until 2004, Shaikha Haya was Bahrain’s Ambassador to France, and non-resident Ambassador to Belgium, Switzerland and Spain. She was concurrently Bahrain’s permanent representative to UNESCO; a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Arbitration Centre Consultative Committee; and Bahrain’s representative on the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Shaikha Haya’s senior diplomatic roles should be seen in the context of King Hamad’s drive to bring women into the most senior political roles, since his arrival to the throne. King Hamad’s new constitution, the National Action Charter, emphasized the equal political rights of women and their eligibility for senior governmental roles.
For example; Nada Haffadh became one of the many women who have served in the Shura Council (Bahrain’s appointed house of parliament), before serving as Minister of Health from 2006. On the same day that Shaikha Haya was appointed as President of the UN General Assembly (6 June 2006). Mona Al Kawari became the first female judge in Bahrain.
The numerous global awards received by Shaikha Haya include the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Special Award, 2007, in recognition of her work promoting global anti-poverty targets; the Path to Peace Award 2007, from the Path to Peace Foundation; and the Social Creativity Award from the Arab Thought Foundation.
Shaikha Haya has blazed an important trail for Arab and Bahraini women in showing what they are capable of and proving that committed, ambitious and brilliant Bahraini women can reach the highest levels, at home and around the world.
First for Bahrain
- Bahrain’s first mosque
- First artificial islands
- Female president of UN General Assembly
- First nation to host Gulf Cup
- First mention in historical record
- First modern schools
- First causeway
- First oil well in the region
- First media outlets
- Bahrain’s first lady
- Women in medicine
- International Airshow
- First referendum
- First Grand Prix