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ERIC Number: EJ984784
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jan-29
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Arab Women Make Inroads in Higher Education but Often Find Dead Ends
Lindsey, Ursula
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 2012
Since at least the early 1990s, Arab governments have made women's participation in higher education a priority. Across the region, young women fill the crowded lecture halls and bustling courtyards of universities. On many campuses, they outnumber men. But women's increased participation in higher education does not necessarily translate into gains within academe and society. Female deans and presidents at Arab universities remain rare; Arab women say they are still questioned and criticized for pursuing careers rather than marriages; and women's studies, voices, and points of view are largely marginalized, say professors. Women make up only 28 percent of the work force in the Middle East and North Africa (and as low as 14 percent in Saudi Arabia and some of the Persian Gulf emirates), the lowest regional rate in the world. In Egypt, despite women's remarkable participation in the revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak last February, the country's new leadership remains overwhelmingly male. Female candidates won only about 1 percent of the seats in the country's newly elected Parliament, and some of the conservative Islamist parties that have emerged since the revolution support gender segregation and emphasize that women's primary role should be as homemakers. To address the dearth of female voices, Ms. Abou-Bakr of Cairo University and others founded the Women and Memory Forum, a unique venture whose goal is to introduce women's issues and perspectives into the curriculum, encourage feminist scholarship, and change representations of women. The consortium of female Egyptian academics translates gender theory and feminist scholarship into Arabic, to create supplemental texts that can be used in fields such as political science, religious studies, history, and literary criticism. Ms. Abou-Bakr and her colleagues are introducing the materials they've created "from the back door," she says, focusing on friends and colleagues who they know will be open to using them. "We have to count on the few people we know from personal relations who are enlightened, progressive," she says. The forum also conducts workshops for undergraduate and graduate students that introduce gender theory and terminology. A curriculum that includes women's voices, concerns, and points of view is more "comprehensive, representative, and fair to the students," says Ms. Golley, of the American University in Sharjah, who is one of several academics behind the creation of the United Arab Emirates Gender and Women's Studies Consortium, which will be holding its inaugural conference in March. Ms. Golley says one of the consortium's goals is to encourage other higher-education institutions in the region to incorporate women's and gender studies into their curricula.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; Tel: 202-466-1000; Fax: 202-452-1033; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Egypt; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Tunisia