January 22, 2015 - The Middle East Institute hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary, Yemeniettes (2014), by Leon Shahabian of Layalina Productions. The film follows a team of teenage girls from Sana'a as they strive to break through the barriers of traditional Yemeni society through entrepreneurship. From the creation of an innovative solar energy project to their participation in the pan-Arab entrepreneurship competition in Qatar, the film explores the trials and tribulations the girls face along the way. Yemeniettes tackles issues of youth unemployment, underemployment, education, drug abuse and demographic pressures. It brings to the screen a part of the world that is often overlooked while maintaining a message of hope and triumph.
Leon Shahabian serves as president and executive producer of Layalina Productions, Inc. He co-founded Layalina in 2002 and has since produced twelve documentaries and television series that have been well received by MENA audiences and by the international film festival circuit. In addition to Yemeniettes, Mr. Shahabian recently created, wrote and produced "Generation Entrepreneur," a youth entrepreneurship reality series (2013 Orbit Showtime Network, 2014 Middle East Broadcast Networks). Mr. Shahabian is a frequent guest lecturer at leading universities and think tanks. He is a life member of the Public Diplomacy Council.
Kate Seelye (Moderator) is senior vice president of The Middle East Institute, where she oversees MEI's programs and communications. Prior to joining MEI, Seelye worked as a radio and television journalist covering the Arab world from 2000-2009 from her base in Beirut, Lebanon. She reported on the region for NPR, BBC's The World, PBS' Frontline/World and the renowned Channel Four British investigative news series, Unreported World. Prior to that she worked as a producer for the Newshour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.