“Women Make the News” – UNESCO and Al Jazeera International Women’s Day Event in Doha

By on Mar 8, 2017 in Gender in the Media, Women in the Middle East | 0 comments

Happy International Women’s Day! Today, I spoke at a special UNESCO and Al Jazeera Media Network event on Arab women’s representation in media. My speech and presentation discussed how women are portrayed generally in fiction and news media globally, and also delved into the cultural taboo that prevents many Qatari women from appearing in published visual media here (a topic I wrote about for Chime for Change in 2013). I had the pleasure of speaking alongside Dima Khatib (managing director of AJ+), Reem Al Harmi (a Qatari columnist), Sarah Al Derham (artist and teaching assistant at the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University; also, one of my former students!), Latifa Al Darwish (cartoonist, filmmaker, and also one of my former students!), Asma Al Hamadi (Al Jazeera presenter) and Hanan Al Yafi (Monitoring and Advocacy Manager at the Doha Centre for Media Freedom). Here are...

CEDAW Review: Qatari Women Demand Their Rights

By on Mar 5, 2014 in Women in the Middle East | 0 comments

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) reviewed Qatar on its progress advancing women’s rights in the country at the organization’s 57th session on Feb. 13, 2014. Qatar ratified the CEDAW agreement in 2009, but as the discussions at the latest session showed, the country continues to fall short in a number of spheres. Qatari pundit Nofe Al Suwaidi wrote a great summary of the CEDAW session and its findings for Justhere.qa. I encourage you to read it. Some of the areas in which Qatari women continue to suffer discrimination: Qatari woman still cannot automatically pass on citizenship to their children. Qatar still has no law on domestic violence, which is scary considering that some 16% of men and 7% of women in Qatar believe wife-beating is justified in certain cases. And apparently 20% of men 15-24 years old agree. Women continue to get...

Gender Equality in Qatar: Good Steps, But More Needs to Be Done

By on Dec 24, 2013 in Women in the Middle East | 0 comments

Happy Holidays! Here’s my gift to all my readers: my latest opinion piece on gender equality in Qatar, published by JustHere.qa. An excerpt: Qatar is doing many things right. The Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016 states women’s empowerment as a key developmental objective. It lists many goals for its citizen women, including increasing the number of Qatari women in the workforce, increasing leadership positions for them, and even “reducing the stereotyping of women’s roles and responsibilities.” But if true equality for women is to be achieved in Qatar, much needs to be done. A patriarchal mindset is still the norm here. When I have reported on women’s issues here in the past and wanted to interview men, I was warned by Qatari colleagues not to use “bad” terms such as feminism and women’s empowerment because the interviewees would think I was advocating taking power...

Why Many Qatari Women Won’t Pursue Media Careers

By on Dec 18, 2013 in Women in the Middle East | 0 comments

For the past two years, I’ve been working diligently on a story about the Qatari cultural taboos and traditions that prevent many women here from showing their faces in the media, even if they don’t wear a niqab in every day life. That means refusing to appear in photos or video reports even for positive news stories, or even posting a profile picture on Facebook. This piece was just published by Chime For Change, which is edited by renowned journalist Mariane Pearl. In it, I explore how this taboo impacts gender equality in the country. Here’s an excerpt: The stigma against women appearing in visual media is “a tradition that has no basis either in Islam or in any logic,” said Amal Al-Malki, the only Qatari professor at Education City, a campus run by Qatar Foundation that is home to several American universities. She teaches literature and Islamic feminism and has...

Muslim Women in Sports: Qataris Are Storming the Field

By on Oct 22, 2013 in Women in the Middle East | 0 comments

The Hajj pilgrimage and Eid break are over, but I’m still continuing my blogging theme on impressive Muslim Arab women. And today I’m focusing on Qatari women in sports. In 2012, Qatar sent four women to the the London Summer Olympics. Those were swimmer Nada Mohamed Wafa, sprinter Noor Hussain Al-Malki and Bahiya Al-Hamad and Aya Majdi in rifle shooting and table tennis, respectively. They may not have placed in their competitions, but this was still a historical moment. It was the first time Qatar had ever sent women to the sporting event, and Bahiya even got to carry the Qatari flag for the opening procession. But Qatar has been doing a lot more to promote sports for women than just sending women to the Olympics every four years. Research projects on local women in sports and how to promote greater physical activity among Qatari women have even been funded by the Qatar...

Gulf Women More Educated Than Men, But Lagging Behind in Employment

By on Oct 17, 2013 in Women in the Middle East | 2 comments

Muslims around the world are celebrating the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that all able-bodied Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime if they are able to afford it. Since I have traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and am now a university instructor in Doha, Qatar, I wanted to honor this holy Islamic tradition by focusing my posts this week on Arab and Muslim women, particularly those in the Gulf. Contrary to the popular belief, Khaleeji women are not universally and uncategorically “oppressed.” In fact, there are many women in the Gulf who are leaders of their communities and are pushing the envelope. In Qatar, the former first lady Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and her daughter Sheikha Al Mayassa spring to mind. Since she and her husband rose to power in 1995, Sheikha Moza has tried to advance women’s status and the country’s...