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Blog: Celebrating Women at AUIS

  By: Sipa Kurda   Every March, the Center of Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) celebrates women’s history month, during which a number of events are organized to highlight the history of women around the world, including their struggles and accomplishments. CGDS strives to create spaces for people through their events in which they can express their ideas and share their experiences.    This year, on March 8, celebrated as International Women’s Day, CGDS Director Dr. Choman Hardi, Deputy Director Dr. Lynn Rose, and Researcher Dr. Twana Hassan took part in “Bridging Perspectives,” an online panel discussion with the London School of Economics (LSE) Department of Government. Dr. Lynn Rose moderated the discussion, which focused on the role of harmful social and gender norms in society that force women to stay at home and wait for marriage and stop thinking about their education and future careers. Dr. Paul Kirby, Dr. Mazeda Hossain, and Leah Kenny from LSE also spoke about the inequality and injustices people face because of their gender. AUIS students also had the opportunity to join the webinar and take part in breakout discussions to express their ideas about masculinity and gender-based violence.    Dr. Rose described how well the discussion went and how active the participants were saying, “It was a great blend of people with a lot of different areas of expertise, and their perspectives were fresh and new.”   “As for the student sessions that followed the panel, the students said that they had the space to talk, and it was very much student-focused even through there were senior scholars in the group,” she continued.     AUIS student Parosh Abdulla explained what she liked best about participating in the session. “I liked how they presented research about different topics done in different countries and how at the end we got the chance to have a discussion with the researchers, professors, and panelists.”    Raz Abdulla, also an AUIS student who took part in the discussion, said, “I merely attended the discussion as an audience member and I found it highly informative.”    Fellow student participant Zhera Bazaz added, “I believe the program was a great opportunity to see the different issues that each community faces in terms of sexism and discrimination.” He continued, “Personally, I was able to learn a lot about my community and also about foreign communities and their struggles to achieve equality. It was also an opportunity to learn about the successes and failures of other movements in different countries and how to utilize that knowledge and implement it on our community.”   CGDS researcher Dr. Hassan further explained the value of having students participate in the online event. “The participation of young students and dividing them into small groups was also another interesting point about the panel. This led to sharing questions and thoughts about gender, masculinity and equality among the participants.”   This year’s International Women’s Day event went online, but students and CGDS staff still had to opportunity to mark the day and express realities faced by women in the modern day. The value of having events like this is that participants are given a safe space to speak about their experiences and as Raz Abdulla shared, opportunities like this would be beneficial to the wider community going forward.  
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