Giving with a gender lens

Emirati philanthropist Muna Al Gurg shares her giving journey and explains why she's set up her own foundation to focus on investing in women and girls

Shutterstock 122829034

Find this episode on Apple or Spotify, or search for Shaping Philanthropy wherever you get your podcasts.

Emirati businesswoman and philanthropist Muna Al Gurg is the vice chair and director of retail at the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group and plays a leading role in family’s Al Gurg Charitable Foundation. Earlier this year, Muna launched her own philanthropic initiative, Meem Foundation, to bridge gender gaps, create more economic opportunity greater access to both the workplace and health care for women and girls in the MENA region.

In an interview with our new podcast, Shaping Philanthropy, one of her first since launching Meem Foundation, Muna outlines her aims and gives some details about Meem's programming plans. These include scholarships for women at the London Business School and funding for to train women in the Northern Emirates in artificial intelligence and data annotation, in partnership with the UAE government.

“Our vision is a world where all women and girls can achieve their ambitions,” Muna tells our host Anissa Punjani. “Our goal is to find innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to address the unique challenges faced by women and girls in the region.”

Research – and funding for research – will be central to Meem’s work. Referring to a 2022 IMF study, Muna points out that while global investment into R&D has increased, in MENA its percentage of GDP is falling below global averages. “With a young and fast growing population, this is the greatest risk the region faces today,” she says. “At Meem Foundation, we are looking for investments into Mena ideas that are relevant to the region and therefore also investing in their intellectual property.”

"Our vision at Meem Foundation is a world where all women and girls can achieve their ambitions."

Muna Al Gurg, Emirati philanthropist


Shaping Philanthropy's host, Anissa Punjani, in conversation with Muna Al Gurg at the Easa Saleh Al Gurg HQ in Dubai in February 2024.

During the wide-ranging interview, Muna also reflects on how her late father, Easa Saleh Al Gurg, has influenced her giving, recalling how he would return from overseas trips and share albums with the family showing them pictures of his charity work.

Muna, who is a founding board member of Endeavour UAE and an investor with Mindshift Capital, a gender-lens venture fund, cites her key values as: integrity; courage; personal growth; and innovation.

Sharing learnings from along her philanthropic journey, Muna reflects on the importance of listening to beneficiaries. “One of the biggest lessons that I've learnt over the years is that it’s really important to understand what beneficiaries need rather than dictate to them what they need,” she says. “Once you come to that understanding, and you're calm in your listening and getting that data out of them, you can create the best programmes and create the best impact.”

Muna also underlines the importance of sustainability and explains why philanthropy isn’t just about writing a cheque but rather seeing a project through its lifetime to ensure lasting impact.