Zainab Salbi stands outside, smiling at a group of women. She has very short salt and pepper hair and is wearing a long black top with a red, blue and green pattern.

Zainab SalbI: Founder of Women for Women International, Creator and Host, AUTHOR

The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Zainab Salbi from Women for Women International to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.  

#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?

Zainab Salbi: Women’s reality in wars and conflicts. Not only are women targeted for violence and displacement, their voices and their proposed solutions are not heard. If we want to understand war and peace then we need to understand what women have to say about that, beyond what men have to say about it.

#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?

ZS: It took me years to realize that my innovation was a breakthrough. At the beginning, I was just doing the work out of following my heart’s desire and my truth. Eventually, I discovered that I was onto something that appealed to other women as well. When more women started joining the project and media started covering it, I realized that there was something about it that was resonating with people. If I am to summarize that, I would say the secret of the breakthrough is in the simplicity and clarity of the idea.

#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?

ZS: Oh. So many! First, lack of money and resources made it really hard. Then, lack of experience in the field was hard as well. The first few years felt rewarding spiritually but were torture financially and practically. It took 35 years of patience, perseverance and belief for the project to tip over toward success.

#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?

ZS:  My work is simply my truth. What I do is what I genuinely believe in and I am committed to doing it no matter what. I am fulfilling my heart’s desire when I work and that makes me love every part of it, giving me courage in the days when I am afraid of failure.

#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?

ZS: Each person can make a difference in the world. We do not need special skills, money, education, or anything else. All we need is our dedication, belief, love, courage, and perseverance. Dreams do come true. We just need to show up fully in our lives and not shy away from making our dreams a reality.

#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?

ZS: Women have always innovated. If anything, they are the masters of innovation. But the world has yet to acknowledge, see and respect their innovation. Now is our time to show, celebrate and demand that the world see and respect women’s innovation.

Follow Zainab Salbi on: Twitter, and Instagram.

Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.