Best friends, daughters of Lebanese immigrants empower other Arab women with higher education goals

Two Dearborn natives and children of immigrant parents, are hoping to help other Arab women. The goal is give them the tools they need to succeed in higher education.

FOX 2: "What message would both of you send to anybody who might find themselves wanting to carve out their own path?"

"This is going to sound so cliché but if you can dream it you can do it," said Hannah Mackie.

Hannah and Lana Charara have been friends for over a decade, and like many best friends, they share a lot in common - from their upbringings to their aspirations.

"My parents didn’t go to college so when I wanted to go, I had to figure out the whole thing myself," Hannah said. "Picking a major, doing internships."

Hannah and Lana are proud Arab women. Their parents were born in Lebanon and immigrated to the states. The girls however, were born in Dearborn.

They both say, as they matured, growing up as modern women in a traditional household had its challenges. From a young age, they wanted more, they wanted to be independent, and self-sufficient with degrees and careers - but they felt pressure.

"It is a very patriarchal culture and there is a lot of the stress on motherhood and family life," said Lana. "And sometimes education isn’t as emphasized for girls in these cultures and communities."

So, these best friends leaned on each other, together. They decided to go to the University of Michigan and last year they graduated – both with degrees in political science and plans to go to law school.

But Hannah says carving out a path without an immediate example to follow, was overwhelming.

"When you’re first generation or you’re new to this country, you don’t have that," she said. "So we figure that we could find this organization and be that resource for people."

"While other people in their lives may not be emphasizing education or these other opportunities, we wanted to try and be that support for them," said Lana.

In 2019 the two created "Empowering Arab Women."

It is an organization that provides other young women and girls in their community with the resources, knowledge and tools all needed as they navigate college and higher education.

"We want to show them that there is a pathway for these things," Lana said.

What started informally is now gaining traction on social media, with Arab women around the country scheduling Zoom meetings and exchanging emails.

"In recent years you see a lot more women in this community seeking entrepreneurship, more going to school, and it sounds silly, but even girls getting married at later 
ages," Lana said. "It’s no longer the priority."

"Believe in yourself and if you can dream it, you can do it," Hannah said.

>>Find Empowering Arab Women online at its Instagram page HERE.