European Union Awards €900,000 Grant to AUIS

Center for Gender and Development Studies to Develop New Educational Programs

The Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) has been awarded a €900,000 grant by the European Union to fund a two-year project aimed at developing gender studies and policy, building community capacity, and increasing visibility, the Center’s director, Dr. Choman Hardi, announced today. The innovative, wide-ranging activities that the CGDS team will undertake are designed to make important contributions to understanding and addressing issues of gender disparity in Iraq and the MENA region.

Text of opening remarks by Dr. Choman Hardi, Founder and Director of CGDS:

As feminists we believe in justice and equality. We believe that having access to educational resources in one’s mother tongue is a right. We believe that gender studies should not become an elitist project of private universities, but a part and parcel of every university education. We also believe that being given the opportunity to develop an alternative discourse and to think independently and critically can change things for better. We are thus pleased to announce our EU-funded educational development project to advance gender studies in Kurdish and Arabic, develop community capacity, and increase visibility. 


We commend the August 2018 decree by the KRG Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The decree ensures that all universities in the Kurdistan region will start teaching gender studies. We hope that our two-year project, through providing the necessary resources and skills, will help with the implementation of this decree. We also hope that a similar approach will be adopted by the new Iraqi cabinet.


Our project aims to intervene in the public discourse on gender. Teachers, lawyers, social workers, and journalists play a major role in shaping this discourse. This is why a large part of the project is dedicated to translating key gender-related texts into Arabic and Kurdish in the areas of pedagogy, law, social work, and media. After producing the relevant resources, Iraqi, Egyptian, and Lebanese faculty will be trained in order to teach the courses. We will also review the primary education textbooks for years 1-9 to propose a new educational approach to the Ministries of Education in Kurdistan and Iraq. 


Aiming to benefit the larger community, not only universities, we will produce six short films, re-write and record six popular sexist folksongs, monitor and report on Iraqi and Kurdish media, provide training to NGOs, and public and private sector staff, train students to become diversity discussants in high schools, produce monthly radio discussions, and provide scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds for a gender studies summer school. We will promote gender visibility through our outreach as well as AUIS-based activities, seminars, and workshops. 


I want to end with the importance of creating hope in the face of common hopelessness. In post-conflict societies where trust is destroyed and hopelessness is woven in the very fabric of every-day life, it may be difficult to know where to start from and what to do. I want to echo Antonio Gramsci’s insight that we need pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will in order to succeed. We need the pessimism because it is necessary to understand how difficult, resilient, and dangerous patriarchal systems can be. But we also need to be optimists. We must believe that despite the obstacles and dangers, change is possible. After all, oppressors and perpetrators of violence against women are not pure evil; they too are victims of their problematic upbringing and education. 


We are extremely pleased that three years into founding the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) and a year after launching the first gender studies minor in Iraq, we succeeded in securing vital support from the European Union to launch this initiative. This project has the potential to be a game-changer. Today we are sharing hope and stressing that persevering and working hard will pay off.