Director’s Update: January 2016

January’s chill has galvanized us into action!

Firstly, IWSAW is delighted to announce its new academic program – a Minor in Gender Studies! As you surely know by now, part of IWSAW’s work is to establish and support high-quality programs of study on gender issues at the undergraduate, graduate, and mid-career levels. This includes our Masters’ in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, launched in 2014 and currently undergoing “renovation”. This also includes an exciting new plan in the works for a Certificate in Gender in Development and Humanitarian Assistance targeting mid-career professionals, delivered in partnership with LAU’s Continuing Education Program - more information coming soon! 

For now, we are delighted to present our new Minor in Gender Studies – an undergraduate program that stimulates interest in gender and women’s rights in the Arab world, and builds a fundamental knowledge base in gender issues for undergraduate students. The Minor aims to enable students to adopt a gender perspective in understandings of human rights, equality, and social change. 

Also new for January is the Gender and Migration course offered this spring semester and cross-listed with the M.A. in Migration Studies. This course uses a gender lens to study various forms of migration, focusing on migration to and from the Middle East, domestic labor, human trafficking, sex trafficking, displacement through conflict, and more. This course is taught by Jad Jaber – an expert on gender and sexuality in the Arab World. While teaching, Jad also works at the World Bank in the Lebanese Council for Development and Reconstruction focusing on social cohesion projects between host and migrant communities.

IWSAW was also present at the 7th Session of the Committee on Women of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) that took place from 20-21 January in Muscat, Oman. The meeting was attended by all ESCWA member states representatives and women’s rights organizations from around the Arab world. Among the themes discussed in the two-day meeting were the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 20 years after its adoption, the Sustainable Development Goals, UN resolution 1325, and the challenges faced by women and girls in the Arab region, especially in times of war and armed conflict.

And IWSAW is expanding – again!

Jacob Schaap, from the Netherlands, brings 14 years of experience in managing his own private business and international project management. His time spent teaching English and producing films in the MENA region compelled him to change his career trajectory from the private to the non-profit sector. Prior to joining IWSAW, he conducted research on public healthcare in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and worked at the Netherlands Embassy in Beirut coordinating several humanitarian projects. Jacob is supporting IWSAW with several initiatives, including its project to provide gender training to police and internal security.

Nour Kuzbari is Syrian and American. While studying in the US, she had the opportunity to spend a year in Alexandria, Egypt through the Arabic Overseas Flagship Program, a prominent program educating students in the languages and cultures of the world. She is currently pursuing her Masters at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies. Her focus is on the rights of female migrant domestic workers. She is in Lebanon to complete her dissertation and to support IWSAW to update its Awareness Guide for Female Migrant Domestic Workers and also produce a guide for employers:

And finally, we should also take this time to commemorate the passing of two feminist icons in the region – Sitt Anissa Rawdah Najjar (Lebanon) and Fatema Mernissi (Morocco). Sitt Anissa was a well-known Arab woman pioneer and champion for women’s rights. She was featured in Al-Raida and was also nominated by IWSAW for the “Women’s Creativity in Rural Life Prize” in 2000. Scholar, sociologist, and feminist leader Fatema Mernissi passed away in late November, but her impact on the women’s movement will always be felt in the region – and around the world. Read this for more information on this groundbreaking pioneer:

We are fortunate to have built this movement on many fundamental foremothers – and now it’s up to us to keep it going!

Stay warm – keep moving!