About CGDS


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.

CGDS Mission Statement

CGDS integrates education, research, and community development. We emphasize education and research in order to produce and share knowledge, which we use to develop community capacity. Our aim is to advance gender parity in Iraq and the greater MENA region. Our main beneficiaries are not only higher education students, but the entire community. We firmly believe that the knowledge produced in academic institutions needs to be propagated within the larger communities. A holistic approach to tackling gender inequality is essential. This must include teaching, training, and conducting gender related research to produce, promote, and circulate knowledge. We believe in the importance of education, especially when it comes to bringing about normative change. Change can only happen when individuals (both men and women) start seeing the status quo as problematic. We believe, furthermore, that academic work and activism should be more closely connected. Finally, we believe that activists need to know more about theoretical issues and academics should be more involved in activism.

CGDS Vision Statement

In the ideal world, gender identity is not a barrier. We envision a world that celebrates diversity and equality. In this world, people—regardless of their ability, class, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexuality—will be free and able to think critically about and have equal opportunities in their societies.