'Conversations With A Muslimah' is a series of posts that highlights the experiences of Muslim women around the globe by interviewing notable figures from each community. In this article, Marwa Hamid spoke to Lamia Al Ansi, who is the director of procurement at OMRAN.
I left my parents’ home at a relatively young age. As much as I long to be home again, as much as I would not exchange such a life-enriching experience. My maternal grandmother was an illiterate woman, she only memorized some verses from the holy Quran that were enough for her to pray and to recite some on her four children’s foreheads as she tucked them into bed every night. My mother, willingly gave up her education and career after figuring out that taking care of her five children was her call in this life.
My mother enjoyed and celebrated each and every achievement one of her children reached, she saw some of her unreached dreams being turned into a reality by no one but her very own kids. As I approached a certain age, my mother’s dreams for me and my very own ones clashed. Mama wanted me to be just like everyone else; a wife, a mother with perhaps a stable job, a cozy home, and a nice car. Unknowingly, my mother’s independent character shaped me into the young lady I am today, her strong will and her never-ending aspirations always influenced me, she encouraged me to work hard and never settle for less than what I wanted or wished for. Nothing resembled my mother’s attitude towards me better than Maya Angelou’s letter to the daughter she never had:
When you walk out of my door, don’t let anybody raise you — you’ve been raised.
You know right from wrong.
In every relationship you make, you’ll have to show readiness to adjust and make adaptations.
Remember, you can always come home.
I am often fascinated by cosmopolitan young ladies, who can travel away from home but are always capable of returning back. Getting to hear their stories always provides me with new dimensions, if they made it then I sure can make it as well. Long gone are the days that the kitchen was our limit, today not only Mount Everest is the limit, but rather the sky is.
With a career spanning nearly 15 years across 3 continents and 2 industries, Lamia Al Ansi is applying her extensive experience to help the economic and social growth of Oman. As Director of Procurement for the Oman Tourism Development Company - ‘Omran’, Lamia’s role includes tendering, contract negotiation and project budgeting. Her work aims to elevate the important role of procurement governance and processes, including developing new policies, procedures and systems. Lamia is passionate about community growth and SME development and hopes to continue helping shape this space in the years ahead.
According to Lamia, women in Oman are firmly cementing their position in the workforce and are pushing the glass ceiling across all sectors noting, “Omani women can be found in top and executive management positions in most organizations” adding “The most accomplished and professional women I have met happen to be from our region, and some of the most exceptional among them are from Oman.”
It’s often that, Arabic women, are labeled as backward, oppressed and dependent. How does a young lady from Oman view and reflect on such labels?
I remember my first stint working in Europe, coming from Oman where my Director of Finance Fatma Al Kharusi was the most powerful woman in Oman! And was in charge of more or less than 2,000 people. And being culturally shocked that there was ONE female manager in the large entity I worked at, and she was part-time, in a none-core business function.
So, to answer the question: labels are generalizations. They’re not valid anywhere (not in the west, not in our region). If you had the privilege of meeting an Arab woman, you’d know that for the most part, we’re strong and opinionated, and if I may say lucky. There are obvious areas of environmental improvements, such as social pressure and expectations of conforming. But that’s everywhere.
An African proverb says: if you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family. Your mother, her Excellency Lamees Al Taei was one of the very first educated women in Oman as well as one of the first females appointed as members of the Omani Parliament. What are the lessons you have learned from your mother? How did your mother’s education and career aspirations influence your upbringing as a child and later on your independent decisions as an adult?
It’s a privilege to be my mother’s daughter. Not only is she educated and strong and an inspiration, she’s a true human being and I learn from her every day. I wish I had her value system and compassion, and as a child her treating me as an adult and nurturing my thoughts and scribblings were fundamental to what I see being my strongest fortes: knowing where I come from, believing in myself, and positivity in the goodness of others.
Your late father, his Excellency Saud Al Ansi was an ambassador of Oman to Tunisia, Pakistan, Djibouti, Kuwait, UN NY, Columbia and as a child, you have traveled and lived in many places how did life aboard influence you?
I am a global citizen who doesn’t believe in borders, and I believe in the unity of human kind. I can't stay in one place for 6 weeks straight, and always itch for a trip in or outside Muscat where I reside. Wherever I go I try to give back, and recently I went to Nepal to trek Everest Base Camp and we managed to crowd fund a good amount of money which we donated to Global Action Nepal who sponsor education of children in remote communities in Nepal. These things make me realize how people want to help, you just need to ask. And helping is so simple.
Lamia, you have climbed the career ladder at an early age and reached an executive position in the field of Oil & gas, an industry that is normally dominated by men, how did you manage to reach that far?
I’ve been surrounded by an amazing group of colleagues and mentors and been lucky to always be in places that I felt passionate about. I learned that experience is second to determination and willingness to take the extra mile. If anything, I find that the older I grow the less confident I am about my career know-how, because you know so much more, you doubt decisions sometimes! Go figure.
Not only have you climbed the career ladder, but you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus, Everest Base Camp and Jebel Toubkal for the sake of the adventure in combination with a good cause which is charity. Can you tell us more about these experiences? How did you get engaged in such risky hobbies and where did you get the support to do so from?
Well, I generally like experiences- I’ve tried diving, bungee jumping, kayaking, paragliding, and other activities along the years. Once I starting trekking, a good friend of mine and I were talking in 2014 (over whatsapp) about our bucket lists, and we decided we should do something major. Mount Kilimanjaro came up and we went for it. Then, it became addictive, and within 16 months we ventured into 3 additional high altitude peaks (2 of them being from the 7 summits, and 1 being up to base camp of the highest in the world)
Does your mother see a younger version of herself in you today, or does she see a more empowered daughter who achieved some of the dreams that her mother couldn’t achieve for herself?
She see’s a lot of my father and some of herself in me (her words). I’d be lucky if I could live the life my mom had - she was also a third culture child (raised outside of her parents country), and later marrying a diplomat still continued residing outside of Oman until she was in her 40’s when it was the first time she ever settled in 1 country, Oman, for good.
For the young Muslimahs who are reading your story around the world, do you believe that dreams come true? Your dreams? Their dreams too?
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ
And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me (Quran 2:186)
Dreams do come true. We just have to notice it happening.
As I wind up my interview with Lamia, I recall a line from Maya Angelou’s Beautiful Letter to Her younger Self:
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all,”
Dear Lamia, thank you for your time and for being such a rising global star. If you would like to contribute to Lamia’s initiative that she started while being at Everest Base Camp for Global Action Nepal (GAN), check out her fundraising page on:
Lamia through her fundraising campaign is helping GAN work in schools and local communities to improve education quality in Nepal.
Author: Marwa Hamid