Opening remarks by Dr. Choman Hardi, Founding Director of CGDS:
Founded in 2015, the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) integrates education with 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, and 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 eight 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 re-examine our long-held attitudes and believes. It helps us problematise the injustice and inequality that have 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 affiliation. 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.