Center for Gender and Development Studies Launched at AUIS | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

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Center for Gender and Development Studies Launched at AUIS

Monday, February 15, 2016 - 12:15

The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) formally inaugurated the Center for Development and Gender Studies (CGDS) at a conference on February 11, 2016. 

The new Center seeks to become a hub of knowledge and conceptual discussions around gender studies that will be disseminated within society through different outreach strategies. The ultimate aim of the center’s outreach initiatives is to provide the basis for normative change and development by providing training, sharing information, and supporting women’s economic empowerment, leadership and management.

The center was formally launched by Dr. Choman Hardi,  founding director of CGDS and chair of the AUIS English department, during her opening speech at an AUIS conference on the future of the Ezidi community in Iraq. The conference, "Ezidis Beyond ISIS: Gender, Genocide and Return", was the first conference hosted by CGDS and the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) on February 11, 2016.  The event brought together Ezidi survivors of ISIS atrocities, agencies working to document these atrocities, practitioners providing services to survivors, academics working in the field, and relevant international experts to create an in depth understanding of - and generate action on - one of 21st century’s worst crimes against humanity.  

Announcing the opening of the Center, Dr. Hardi said, "It is an honor to launch the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) in this important conference. We firmly believe that the knowledge produced in academic institutions needs to be disseminated within the relevant communities, using different outreach strategies. A holistic approach to tackling gender inequality is essential." She continued to say that gender activism is most effective when informed by feminist knowledge. "Normative change in gender relations can only happen when feminist knowledge has been produced and shared. This is why we believe that academic work and activism should be more firmly connected. Activists need to know more about theoretical issues and academics should be more involved in activism." The Center hopes to amplify women's voice and agency nationally and within their communities as a means of social and economic development and promote gender informed practices in professional and humanitarian contexts. 

At an academic level, the Center aims to increase and enhance AUIS's research capacity in the field of gender and promote gender in the University's curricula through offering courses on the subject. Dr. Hardi mentioned in her speech that in a survey conducted amongst AUIS students, 62 percent had shown interest in studying gender related courses and 32 percent wanted to take a minor in gender studies, which is a very encouraging sign. AUIS currently offers one course on "Gender, Media and Society", which is taught by Dr. Hardi. She said that it is very satisfying to see the course help students transform long-held views on gender and normality. "What is education if not stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zone and being willing to reconsider our long held views? What is education if not realizing that we have been persuaded by various systems to accept inequality and learning how to challenge it?," she said in the speech. 

Read full text of Dr. Hardi's opening speech at the conference. 

Find out more about the Center for Gender and Development Studies at AUIS.

Find out more about the conference on Ezidi genocide, displacement and return