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To commemorate the International Women’s Day, we are featuring women who have made notable contributions in their respective industries. We aim to explore the tenacity of each and discover how they pushed boundaries to rise to the top. 

Amal Waqar, Musician 

Amal Waqar by Firas al-Raisi (2018)

What does the 2022 International Women’s Day slogan, #BreaktheBias mean for you in your work life? 

It’s been incredible to see the growth in support for women in their professional fields, especially in regard to women from more diverse cultural or ethnic backgrounds in the region. Advocacy and support should extend to all women – regardless of age, background, spiritual alignment, personality, or field. To me, #BreakTheBias means defying the limitations imposed to us and at the same time, engaging in the community and connecting through the shared experiences we all face as women.

What is the main challenge that you’ve faced as a woman in your industry? 

Female oud players are not that common – difficulties arise from often being the only woman in my professional environment. The biggest difficulty is probably the attention I get for being a novelty, even when that attention is well-meaning. 

It is important to celebrate women for their accomplishments, especially when those accomplishments come out of challenging circumstances. However, I think that we have reached the point where we can start to normalize women succeeding in their fields. I’d happily be known for my artistic vision, rather than being known for a “gender-specific experience” of my instrument.

What has been the most empowering moment in your career?

This is a huge question for any artist to answer! As I’m sure most people can identify with, musician or otherwise, life is full of empowering moments, and it’s near impossible to isolate all the great moments in life. So far in my life, pivotal moments seem to compound and build momentum and take you from one phase to the next. If we’re talking about the most empowering moment in my career from this perspective, then it’s probably when I made the decision to pursue music more seriously. But having said that, I feel like this commitment to pursue music deepens every year as my bond with music and myself strengthens.

Do you have any advice for women wanting to work their way up the ladder? 

When it comes to starting a career as a female musician, I don’t think there’s anything more important than the people you surround yourself with. When you’re young, everyone is your teacher, even your friends and colleagues, so it helps to be deliberate about who and what you expose yourself to. Do you like how they practice or keep a routine? Do you like what they listen to? Do you like the sub-culture they’re a part of? Surrounding yourself with people who love what they do, love you, and are committed to seeing you grow how you need to is invincible stuff.

What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?

We’ve seen such an explosion in the opportunities available to youth, especially female youth, in the past few decades. As a continuation of that, I’d love to see more women in the region participate in different music styles, performance art, production, cinematography, etc. We need your voices, your minds, and your stories out in the world!

Which powerful woman do you admire the most and why?

I’ve consciously made the decision to consistently reflect on the women around me, my friends, family, and colleagues, and appreciate their power, strength, and intelligence. These qualities are not one-size-fits-all. Power and strength manifest differently depending on life circumstances, and there are so many different kinds of intelligence. 

It’s very important to me, at this phase in life, to meet women in their truth and appreciate them according to their values, as opposed to judging them based on my values. If a friend’s definition of success in life is to be a mother and wife, I want to try and understand why she feels that way and how I can support her. If I have a cousin who is more subversive and defines her success based on her personal interpretation of values, I am so intrigued and invested in that process with her. I, in turn, ask from others for the same support and commitment to understanding my values. In a way, every woman I get to know inspires me with her conviction and self-autonomy, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye!

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