CGDS Historical Overview
Housed at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) was founded by Dr. Choman Hardi in 2015. This was soon after the Ezidi genocide, when the region was enduring a humanitarian crisis and the most common response to advancing gender studies was “now is not the right time!” Dr. Choman persisted anyway; Ms. Jan Warner supported the idea with a donation; and Ms. Shiereen Saib joined CGDS as the first Project Manager. The center was formally launched on February 11, 2016 at the conference “Ezidis Beyond ISIS: Gender, Genocide and Return.”
CGDS integrates education, research, and community development. Its outreach initiatives aim to provide the basis for normative change and development by “problematizing” commonly held ideas and involving women and men in the process. CGDS takes an intersectional approach to social justice and supports women, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups in their struggle to regain the voice and agency that belongs to them. In order to achieve these goals, CGDS has established links with internal and external institutions such as government bodies, gender programs in other universities, and local and international NGOs.
In 2017, CGDS launched the first interdisciplinary gender studies minor in Iraq. In the subsequent few years, it grew very quickly: the team now consists of over 20 staff and is funded by several grants, including major grants from the European Union, the Global Challenges Research Fund, and the United Nations Population Fund.