Dr. Thoraya Obaid

Thoraya Obaid was the first Saudi Arabian to head a UN agency. She was appointed head of UNFPA in 2001 with the rank of Under-Secretary General of the United Nations. Previous to this position, Ms. Obaid was Director of Division for Arab States and Europe at UNFPA.

In 1975 she established the first women’s development programme in Western Asia. This program helped build partnerships on women’s issues between the United Nations and regional NGOs. From 1975 to 1992 she was Chief of the Social Affairs Office at ESCWA, responsible for the advancement of women. Between 1984 and 1985 she was a member of the League of Arab States Working Group for Formulating the Arab Strategy for Social Development. From 1992 to 1993 she was Chief of Social Development and Population Division at ESCWA. In 1996, Ms. Obaid chaired the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Gender in Amman and in 1997 she was a member of the UN Inter-Agency Gender Mission to Afghanistan.

Ms. Obaid is one of the 30 Saudi women who were appointed in 2013 as members in the Shura Council (Consultative Council) that provides advice to King Abdallah bin Abdulaziz and presently to King Salman bin Abdulaziz. It is the first group of women to be appointed to what was once an all male council. She is also the first woman to chair one of the Council's Committee, and she has been the chair of the Human Rights and Oversight Commissions 2015 - 2016. She is also one of three women who received King Abdulaziz Medal of the First Degree for her international service.

Ms. Obaid was the first Saudi Arabian woman to receive a government scholarship to study in the United States. She has a doctorate degree in English Literature and Cultural Anthropology from Wayne State University in Michigan. She received a B.A. in English Literature and Sociology from Mills College in California.