First Person: The entrepreneur helping Middle Eastern women enter the digital economy


Mona Ataya, a Palestinian-Lebanese entrepreneur based in the United Arab Emirates, runs the largest online marketplace for mothers in the Middle East. In recognition of her achievements, she has been chosen as one of the six eTrade for Women Advocates for 2021-2022, by the UN trade agency, UNCTAD. 

Ms. Ataya is the founding partner and CEO of Mumzworld, and has been on the Board of Directors of the Dubai Chamber for Digital Economy since 2011. In a conversation with May Yaccoub from UN News, she shared the challenges faced by businesswomen in the Middle East, and why she is committed to supporting them.

“I have been working in the digital economy in the MENA Region for the last two decades, and I have seen how it has gone through some revolutionary changes. The digitalization of the global economy is core to the way the world is moving, but women remain very underserved, and we need to bring more of them on board. 

UNCTAD’s eTrade for Women is doing just that: it’s helping women by providing the information and resources that allow us women to have our voices heard and our contributions felt.

I’m looking forward to using my new role as a mentor, and sharing my knowledge, skills, and successes with other women in the region, as well as creating tools, information, and resources for them to tap into. 

On a mission to help mothers

I started my corporate career outside the Middle East, and I used those years to build the skillset that would allow me to return home to the region, and leverage what I have learned to build businesses in this part of the world and create value.

Mumzworld was built in 2011 to support women in the Arab world and help them to make informed decisions for their families. Before, access to products for them was limited, prices were very high, and an online community for mothers to tap into did not exist. We set out to solve these problems, and built up a business that reaches the homes of more than 2.5 million mothers, with the largest offer of quality products in the region, and which has become the go-to destination for global brands that want to reach Middle Eastern consumers.

Today we have over 350 staff, with over 6,000 brands and more than 300,000 products for sale on the website: a successful, homegrown business that has become a gold standard, and has created momentum for other women to succeed and create more jobs in the region.

View of Business Bay, Dubai, from the JW Marriott Marquis

Conor Lennon/ UN News

View of Business Bay, Dubai, from the JW Marriott Marquis

A male-dominated industry

The e-commerce industry in the Middle East is heavily male-dominated, from suppliers, to delivery companies and financiers. For a woman operating in this space, this can be a big challenge: you have to use your unique skills and abilities to manoeuvre through the corporate maze and succeed.

The good news is that, when women do succeed and build scalable businesses, we give other women the courage to also come in and start their own ventures.

I have been helped by the fact that my husband and three teenage sons are very understanding. Their support has been instrumental in my success, because an entrepreneur has to compromise, sacrifice time and give a tremendous amount of effort, financial risk and compromise in order to build a successful company.”