In this podcast Dr. Choman Hardi, CGDS Director, and Mr. Rasti Ranj, LSE Hub Regional Manager, interview Dr. Najat Mohammad Faraj, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Sulaimani and the Director of the first gender center in Kurdistan.
In this podcast, the production of which is funded by a generous EU grant, Dr. Choman Hardi, CGDS Director, and Mr. Rasti Ranj, LSE Hub Regional Manager, interview Dr. Najat Mohammad Faraj, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Sulaimani and the Director of the first gender center in Kurdistan. The interview reviews the history of how the first gender center was established. Both directors discuss how the process of opening these centers developed, and what impacts, obstacles, and misconceptions they faced.
Dr. Najat relates how she was approached in the Autumn of 2010 by the president of the University of Sulaymaniyah with the idea of a gender center. The center was originally named “Center for Gender Studies and Gender Based Violence.” A protocol was signed between the University of Sulaimani and the University of Bristol with the support of the British Council and others to set up the center.
Dr. Najat faced various obstacles and difficulties. Her own peers did not take her seriously; some even disregarded her and told her that they did not believe in such ideologies. Regardless, she mentions how three other colleagues (Dr. Payman Abdulqadir Majid, Dr. Niyan Namiq Sadiq, and Dr. Jwan Baxtyar Bahadin ) decided to help her with the project. Another obstacle was the misconceptions that surrounded the concept of gender. Dr. Najat recalls how the male faculty would pass by and look away in discomfort. Gender itself was a concept that was misconstrued. It was regarded by society as women’s sexuality, homosexuality, and promiscuity.
Dr. Choman Hardi discusses her experience with opening CGDS (Center for Gender and Development Studies). She says that unlike Dr. Najat Mohammad, the American University of Iraq (its employees, faculty, and others) were very supportive of the idea. One barrier Dr. Choman did face, however, was that she did not have any funds. Another obstacle was the stigma surrounding the gender classes that Dr. Choman would teach and had taught in the past.
The interview concludes by answering common questions regarding gender and CGDS. The questions include: Why are all feminists angry and agitated? Do feminists hate men? Can feminists only be women? Will being a feminist have an effect on my career? How influential are funds (such as CGDS’s EU fund) in raising awareness about these topics and having discussions that impact society’s original perspective?