CGDS | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

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AUIS Launches Interdisciplinary Minor in Gender Studies During 16 Days of Activism

The Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) was founded in November 2015 and officially launched in February 2016 in a conference about gender and genocide, the case of the Ezidi community. The aim of the center is to advance gender equality in the region through integrating education, research, and community development. Setting up gender studies at AUIS seemed like a distant and long-term dream in 2015. The region was going through a lot of hardship (as it is now), the war against ISIS, the forced displacement of thousands of civilians, the trauma of the Ezidi genocide, the aggravating economic situation in the region and at AUIS: all these factors made it seem that setting up a gender studies program would not be possible for a while. It is therefore with great pride and honor that we gather here today to launch the AUIS Minor in Gender Studies. For the first time in the Kurdistan region and in Iraq we are starting an interdisciplinary minor in gender studies. The courses we have developed for this purpose are offered by the English Department, the Department of Social Sciences, and the Science Department. We believe in the importance of education, especially when it comes to bringing about normative change. Education helps us stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone and re-examine our long held views. It makes us realise that we have been persuaded by various systems to accept inequality that has become invisible to the uncritical eye. Change can only happen when individuals (men and women) start seeing the status quo as problematic and imbued with normalised and hidden injustices. We regularly tell our students that you do not need to be a woman to be a feminist. Any man who believes in gender equality and who challenges the patriarchal system that gives him, as a man, more privileges, is a feminist. Fighting inequality and injustice is the responsibility of everyone (not just women), especially those who have more power because of their gender, class, ethnicity, or political position. This is why we launched our Mr. Feminist campaign to start the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence this year. The campaign drew support from faculty, staff, and students, and included the President, Mr. Bruce Walker Ferguson. We are so happy to include some of these men in tonight's activities. Finally, I want to say that, like any other achievement, the success of this project would not have been possible without the work and support of a team. I thus want to thank Ms Shiereen Saib, who worked with me to establish the center two years ago. Thanks to AUIS for being an open and liberal institution that has encouraged our work and supported us whenever we needed it. I want to thank our patron, Ms. Jan Warner, who believes in us and supports our work. Above all, I want to thank my colleagues at the gender center, the management team: Prof. Lynn Rose and Miss Goshan Qaradaghi who have developed courses, supervised students, and organised activities. Our larger team includes Dr. Maria Saldarriaga (Chair of the Science Department), Dr. Akeel Abbass (the English Department), Miss Jessica Postma and Mr. Michael-Paul Hernandez (both from the Academic Preparatory Program), and Miss Raguez Taha (the Engineering Department). Our brilliant interns, Raz Rizgar Haydar, Raz Saadun Yadullah, and Awin Adil Barkhi, have been a key to the success of this event and our other activities. We are also grateful to Sawen Mohammed Amin and our team of volunteers, and to our Oriental Music Club for making this event a success. Thanks for the widespread endorsement by friends and supporters from the region, including writers, artists, academics, politicians and activists, who are present here today. We welcome you all to the celebration of this great achievement.

Mr. Feminist Campaign

The young men in our society associate the words "feminist" and "feminism" with women fighting for their rights. They don't have a male feminist role model to look up to and to believe the fact that it is normal for a man to fight for gender equality. The mere thought of a "feminist man" seems so surreal to many that they blanch at the idea itself.    And this is the main reason why the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) started the Mr. Feminist campaign. The message behind this campaign was to tell all the young men in our community that it is normal and good to get involved in the fight for women’s right. That with them showing their support, the younger boys will look up to them and can identify themselves with the cause more easily.    The campaign consisted of male faculty, staff members and students holding up a statement each to show their support for women’s rights. CGDS took photos of all participants and made a short video to highlight the campaign’s message. With the launch of the new gender studies minor, CGDS held a conference where the video was showcased. There were also stands outside the conference room where the center’s interns had set up an area for guests and students to take their photos with their chosen quote.   Click here to see the full Facebook album.   Article written by CGDS Intern Sawen Amin.  

The CGDS Event

As part of the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, CGDS (The Center for Gender and Development Studies) of AUIS is celebrating the new Gender Minor and other successes.  Please join us for a showcase of our students' work including music, short films, and more. Refreshments will be provided.  

Workshop on Social Engagement at Times of Conflict

  October 10, 2017 - The Action Group (TAG) hosted a workshop to discuss the importance of volunteering at times of political and social conflict. The event was supervised by the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS). Renowned actor, producer, and director, Mr. Shwan Atuf, was a speaker at the event. He spoke about his experiences as an artist and activist. Atuf gave students an idea of how volunteering can help change the society and make the community a better place. He stressed the importance of putting one’s own hobbies and interests into use, by producing creative projects that have a social impact and will bring change. He then focused his speech on the  advantages of volunteering in terms of gaining knowledge and achieving future goals. Expanding your ability to do work without expecting things in return helps revive trust and a sense of community. Everyone has different ideas but these ideas need to be put into action so that the outcome is seen. Atuf shared some of his own projects and explained how he had to be creative in order to execute them on a small budget. As the event concluded, Mr. Shwan Atuf left the students with a question, “Why won’t you do voluntary work?” he asked, “What else will you do?” He stressed that the work will still get done without them, so why not be part of it? Several students volunteered to join TAG at the end of the seminar, showing their willingness to participate in various capacities. Article by CGDS Intern Awin Adil Taib

CGDS Hosts Training Through the Alternatives to Violence Project

On the first day of the workshop, Mr. Rezhyar explained that AVP has its origins in a United States prison. Developed in the 1980s, with Quaker roots, the program is now unaffiliated with any religion. The principles of the program include nonviolent problem-solving, communication, affirmation, and community-building. All of the facilitators are volunteers. Each of the three days included a variety of activities and exercises, moving from self-reflection to imagining community. Overall, the workshop reflected its tenets: AVP is not therapy, but it is healing; it is not religious, but it is spiritual; theprogram operates not on voting, but on consensus. The serious nature of the training was offset by several exercises that demonstrated another facet: AVP is fun. All of participants expressed deep appreciation for the training session. Two subsequent and more advanced workshops, open to those who completed the first workshop, are forthcoming. Those who complete all of the training will have, in addition, six months of mentorship before being certified as trainers.  

Privilege, Power, and Hierarchy: A Diversity Training Workshop

On October 22 and October 29, the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) at AUIS hosted a two-part diversity training workshop about privilege, power, and hierarchy. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Choman Hardi and Dr. Lynn Rose. The training equipped AUIS students to actively engage with and challenge social injustice by starting discussions about these issues in local high schools. Dr. Choman focused on gender inequality, social construction, and sexist language on the first day of the workshop, while Dr. Lynn focused on different kinds of discrimination against people with disabilities on the second day. Speaking about her aims for the workshop, Dr. Choman said, “We, in AUIS, have many discussions that are not held elsewhere. We sort of live in a bubble. There are many ideas that are discussed and accepted here which could endanger people’s lives outside this place. We think it is important to take this conversation outside. We do not want to be an elitist bubble in a sea of traditional, conservative views, but we aim to engage the community. That is the role of universities generally; that they don't stick to themselves, they actually create ideas that go out to society, and hopefully this training will help towards that.” Dr. Lynn had high hopes for the future regarding social equality in Kurdistan, stating, “I think it could start here in Kurdistan. Why not make this a huge center of change? I wouldn't be happy if it stayed here, but if it started in Kurdistan; if we became a hotbed of revolution for gender equity and accessibility and everything else that's good, why not? I think that would be good, and then we would spread out from there.” A total of 30 students, many of them members of the Action Group (TAG), took part in the workshop and engaged in lively discussions and debates. The students were awarded certificates for completing the workshop. The trained group aims to give presentations in schools around Sulaimaniah in a bid to raise awareness among teenagers about social inequity in Kurdistan. The Center for Gender and Development Studies aims to repeat the training next semester to give more students the opportunity to learn and engage.

CGDS Holds Workshop on Sexual Harassment

By Chra Hussain, AUIS IT major  On October 18, 2016 Dr. Choman Hardi, Director of  Center for Gender and Development Studies at AUIS, facilitated a workshop on sexual harassment. The workshop was was open to both male and female students. Understanding sexual harassment and its consequences was the main focus of the workshop as well as challenging the norms and myths that cause it and highlighting bystander responsibility. After defining sexual harassment and identifying its different types, the workshop discussed its consequences for victims and communities at large; how it negatively affects the victims' psychology and their performance in work or studies; and how it disconnects victims from their community and threatens social cohesion. Not addressing sexual harassment means it will remain unchallenged and may be considered normal and acceptable.  Dr. Hardi shared statistics about how common sexual harassment is and went on to challenge the myths that are used to justify it. The most common myths that were addressed included the following: First of all, women, by dressing in certain ways and going to certain places, are “asking for it”. Secondly, when women say “no” they are just playing hard to get. Another myth that was discussed was “men will always be men” and they can’t control themselves, therefore it is the victim’s responsibility, rather than the perpetrator, to protect herself. Issues related to low level of reporting, despite widespread sexual harassment in the region, were also discussed, especially the threat of shaming and consequent stigmatization. Indeed, shaming has become a global phenomenon especially through the power of technology. If one has sensitive photos of another or has image editing capabilities, they use it to threaten the victims so that the victims refuse to report.  The workshop ended with highlighting the responsibility of bystanders to intervene in developing situations, challenging perpetrators, and cooperating with investigators. It stressed our responsibilities, as individuals, for spreading ideas and practises of equality leading to a safer society. Raising awareness, especially through education, is indeed an effective first step to confront sexual harassment and abuse. This workshop gave AUIS students the opportunity to be more aware of the meaning, prevalence, reasons, and possible approaches to tackling the phenomenon. Students warmly participated in the discussions and offered their own views about the issues.  

Privilege, Power, and Hierarchy: A Diversity Training Workshop

You are invited to participate in a two-day workshop on socio-economic inequity, highlighting gender and disability. Sponsored by the AUIS Center for Gender and Development Studies, this workshop provides training for AUIS students who may be interested in facilitating diversity workshops in local high schools, and is open to all interested students, staff, and community members. Part One of the workshop will be held on Saturday, October 22 from 9:00-12:30; Part Two will be held on Saturday, October 29 from 9:00 to 12:30. Both sessions will be held in  lecture hall B-B2-39. Participants who attend both days of training will receive certificates of completion. Facilitators are Dr. Choman Hardi (English) and Dr. Lynn Rose (Social Science). There is no cost for this workshop. Space is limited: please reserve your spot by emailing the President of  TAG (The Action Group), Zyran Ibrahim, at [email protected]


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