WSC First International Conference "Women And Higher Education"

07 - Oct - 2020

 On the 7th of Oct, 2020, the Women Studies Center followed to the Faculty of Education at the Islamic University of Gaza has convened its first international conference that tackles the role of the higher education sector in empowering and rehabilitating women in different fields.

The conference is held via the zoom program within 7-8 of October with participation of partners from the University of Graz including Prof. Libora Qates, who is the SHE Project Coordinator at UniGraz; and also from Ramallha Ms. Astrid Wein, who is the Austrian Representative in Ramallah, additionally to Dr. Amal Hamed, who is the Minister of Women's Affairs in Palestine. From the Islamic University, the participants are Prof. Nasser Farahat, Prof. Ibrahim Al-Astal, Prof. Sanaa Abu Dagga, and Prof. Somya Saima as well as Eng. Amani Al-Maqadma. The Guest is Ms. Heba Al-Zayyan, the director of UN women office in the Gaza strip.  


Opening Session

Eng. Al-Maqadme, who is the Head of External Relations' Department, chaired the opening session, welcomed the guests, partners, and colleagues saying that this conference is held under umbrella of SHE project, which funded by the Austrian Development and Cooperation Agency through APPEAR Project.

Prof. Ibrahim Al-Astal, who is the Head of the Conference, stressed on the chief goals of holding the conference, saying that this conference is designed to promote the academic and research outputs of the Higher Education Institutions to be employed for empowering women and issues related to their statues. He pointed that the conference highlights some challenges that face women in the HEI and how it can be dealt with. The conference, in addition, boosts the role of networking and communication between HEI and government and non-governmental community institutions as well as international academic cooperation programs in supporting and empowering women.


In a video recording, Prof. Libora Qates confirmed the value of adopting the gender and women's studies pointing that they provide students and researchers with theoretical and methodological tools they need to fill what so-called "gender data gap". These studies place women in their best positions in the public spaces and business fields since these fields are originally known by men dominance more than women. The aim of women studies, as she added, is to aid students understand what the Austrian philosopher Gilder Lehrman means by "men and women share equally in building the world they inhabit.

"Our cooperation with the Islamic University has been a challenging but motivated and rewarding experience," she concluded.    

Prof. Sanaa Abou Dgga, who is the Chairperson of the Conference's Scientific Committee and SHE project Manager, showed why this conference has mainly shed lights on the topic of "Women and Higher Education". One of the reasons is that higher education sector is crucial and women have gained real achievements in it. However, they have still faced a large-scale of challenges. In addition, women empowerment projects have occupied a wide space in our communities and in the whole world. Thus. The international expertise ae various and reflect multiple cultures, purposes, and policies. Women Studies Center at IUG has its own vision in this regard that woman is equal to man and her role completes the circle of development in societies. Understanding her role is based on the reality she lives and the cultural, religious and social backgrounds of her community.

Then Prof. Abou Dagga moved to trace the accomplishments of SHE project since its beginning. "Strengthening Higher Education Capacities in Palestine for Gender Equality (SHE Project) received fund from the Appear Project in 2017-2020. The main outputs of the project includes holding social activities, developing scientific research, enhancing the institutional capacities, and empowering the human capacities.


On behalf of the Austrian Development Cooperation Agency, which funded the women's Studies Center at IUG, Ms. Astrid Wein, who is the Austrian representative in Ramallah, shared some perspectives about the project. Appear project, as she mentioned, supports global academic exchanges between Austrian and academic institutions of partner countries. Austria considers establishing a long-term academic partnership enriches the communities with global debates on key issues; gender equality and women empowerment is one of these crucial issues. The effort Austria has been very pleased to partake in is the establishment of a partnership between IUG and UniGraz, which resulted into gender-sensitive as well as transformative societies by writing, analysis and academic evidence.

As part of succeeding such fruitful partnership in SHE Project, the Austrian and Palestinian students were working together on global gender sectors and they engage in Master programs. Their academic findings will be shared and the women's challenges in higher education institutions will be raised in this conference and conferences ahead. Ms. Astrid also seized the opportunity and thanked Women's Studies Center for surpassing the COVID19 conditions and work to hold this conference.

The total number of scientific papers that are included in this conference are (20). The first day of the conference covered two sessions with (10) papers.

The First Session tackled Women's rights in Islamic Sharia and their role in women's empowerment. In addition, it focused on the empowerment Women in Palestinian universities: The Islamic University of Gaza a Case Study. Enhancing Administrative Empowerment of working women through good governance in Palestinian Universities was given great importance. The participants also discussed the degree of women's empowerment in senior administrative positions in Palestinian Higher education institutions: IUG is a case study. The last paper of this session was the role of higher education institutions in empowering women to exercise their role in Palestinian Society.

The second session dealt with several topics. First, the reasons female students' reluctance to Major in Mathematics in Palestinian Universities.  Second, Attitudes of female academics towards co-education in higher Education institutions. Third, life pressure and their relationship to achievement motivation of women working in Palestinian universities.  Fourth, Gender based obstacles at the faculty of education and ways to overcome them. Fifth, coping strategies of married female students at the Islamic university of Gaza and ways to activate them.

The remaining sessions and recommendations will be implemented tomorrow.