Academic Catalog 2016–2017

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Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World

IWSAW History

The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) was established in 1973 to pay tribute to LAU’s origins as a girls’ school and to fulfill its commitment to education, empowerment, and equality for women and girls. IWSAW was the first institute of its kind in the Arab region. Today, the Institute honors that legacy by:

  • Advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality nationally, regionally and globally, through education, research, development programs, and outreach.
  • Integrating gender issues across all aspects of its work and combining academia and activism in order to achieve gender equality and human rights in the Arab region.


Advancing gender equality and empowering women is at the heart of IWSAW’s mission. By engaging in a unique combination of education, research, development programs and outreach with a focus on issues affecting Arab women, IWSAW represents a vital resource at the national, regional, and international levels, and a leading institution at the forefront of the advancement of women and the promotion of gender equality in the Arab region.

IWSAW raises the profile of gender as a cross-cutting issue by promoting a multidisciplinary approach within the LAU community. The institute engages students, faculty, and staff to integrate gender issues across all programs of study. IWSAW ensures that options in gender studies are available to students from a wide range of disciplines, and also offers specialized qualifications in gender and women’s studies, in order to build a far-reaching knowledge base that incorporates gender perspectives, and promotes gender equality and human rights in the Arab region.

The institute also conducts and supports innovative academic research on women in the Arab region, and partners with a variety of organizations to deliver development programs addressing key issues in the region with a view to promoting gender equality, empowering women, and serving as a catalyst for policy change on women’s rights.

IWSAW is guided and supported by an Advisory Board comprising prominent individuals and experts committed to advancing women’s issues in the Arab region.

IWSAW: The Five Pillars

Education: Establishing high-quality education programs on gender to encourage interest and build capacity at the undergraduate, graduate, and mid-career levels

  • The Minor in Gender Studies stimulates interest in gender and women’s rights in the Arab region, and builds a fundamental knowledge base in gender issues for students at the undergraduate level. The minor aims to enable students to adopt a gender perspective in understandings of human rights, equality, and social change.
  • An expected Masters in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies will incorporate academic and practical applications of gender through an interdisciplinary graduate program of study involving applied research, intellectual rigor, and social activism to promote gender equality.
  • The Diploma in Gender in Development and Humanitarian Assistance (GDHA) builds capacity to meet a pressing need for technical skills in development and humanitarian fields. The GDHA Diploma is offered in partnership with the Continuing Education Program (CEP) at LAU and Human Rights Education Associates (HREA), and provides three focus areas: (1) Gender in Conflict; (2) Gender in Development Programming; and (3) Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response.
  • ​​These three interventions are connected and mutually-reinforcing, fostering interest in and capacity for gender issues among students at the undergraduate, graduate and mid-career levels. IWSAW aims to establish a network of highly-qualified professionals from a variety of fields, who are able to promote gender equality and women’s rights in the Arab region through policy, practice and research, in academic institutions, governmental organizations and ministries as well as national, regional, and international agencies.

Research: Strengthening research on and by women and on gender issues in order to build a body of knowledge to further social change and policy change at national and regional levels 

IWSAW’s work in the field of research contributes much-needed Arab perspectives to global discourses on Arab women and gender equality in the region.

The institute’s bi-annual interdisciplinary journal, Al-Raida, or The Pioneer, is a space for researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and students to address gender equality and women’s issues in the Arab region. It was first published in 1976, three years after the founding of the Institute. Al-Raida is now fully digitized and accessible to all here.

Through Al-Raida, IWSAW aims to

  1. Amplify the voices of and shed light on the lived experiences of women in the Arab region by promoting scholarship on and by Arab women,
  2. Create a space for crucial research on gender issues in the Arab region,
  3. Strengthen connections between Arab women’s movements and global movements, and
  4. Serve as a platform for young voices and activists in the region.

Alongside Al-Raida, the institute also undertakes innovative research projects on a range of topics relevant to Arab women, in order to foster a body of research that can then be used to promote social and policy change in the region. For example, the Institute provides critical information on gender issues in the 22 Arab countries through Country Gender Profiles and Regional Gender Themes, as well as addresses contemporary gender issues with an Occasional Paper Series. Together, these resources provide a gender analysis of national policies, key sectors, legal frameworks and institutions, and assess progress made in the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.

The Institute also works to strengthen the capacity of academics to carry out gender-related research across a variety of disciplines. One such project has included the training of 19 academics from Iraq in gender research and the integration of gender into academic curricula. Through capacity building initiatives in the field of research, IWSAW aims to stimulate the growth of a body of gender-related scholarship originating in the Arab region, and in the Arabic language.

Development projects: Conducting sustainable development projects to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at national and regional levels

The Institute undertakes groundbreaking development programs in collaboration with a variety of national and international organizations to carry out advocacy, build capacity, and strengthen support programs for women in the region. Programs harness the significant gender and gender-based violence expertise of the institute staff to execute programs such as:

  • Strengthening community capacities and building critical life skills through our Basic Living Skills Program to foster sustainable change;
  • Training partners such as the Lebanese Security Sector in gender equality and gender-based violence prevention and response; and
  • Supporting incarcerated women, female migrant domestic workers, and other vulnerable communities, with rights-based approaches to services and support.

Other focus areas include preventing gender-based violence; supporting women detained in corrections facilities and training corrections personnel; promoting women’s political participation; and engaging young women in leadership.

Outreach: Promoting gender equality, human rights, and social justice through outreach events and activities at national, regional, and international levels

IWSAW builds networks with civil society organizations, academic and research institutes, NGOs, UN agencies, governments, donors, the private sector and other stakeholders to promote the work of the institute and to forge strong partnerships at local, regional and international levels. Outreach also includes engaging in global dialogues and promoting the institute through social media and communications materials. One such example is the animated song Bi Ideh, In My Hand, a pioneering and powerful statement led by Arab youth to build champions for gender equality.

In Lebanon, the Who is She in Lebanon? online database provides biographical information on leading Lebanese women from various areas of expertise in order to promote their work and celebrate their achievements. IWSAW has also enjoyed a long partnership with the National Commission for Lebanese Women, collaborating on events focused on issues such as gender equality and legislative reform.

In the Arab region, IWSAW joins forces with other educational institutions to collaborate on gender studies programs and shared learning events such as lectures and seminars, and undertakes joint outreach initiatives on annual events such as International Women’s Day and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign, engaging with partners across disciplines and research fields. IWSAW has also worked on children’s awareness initiatives, including the development of a series of children’s books in Arabic, promoting positive and empowering social messages.

Internationally, the institute organizes conferences and learning events attracting academics, policy-makers and practitioners, parliamentarians, and students from various Arab countries. IWSAW creates crucial fora for the exchange of ideas and perspectives on gender, and offers participants from a range of backgrounds the opportunity to interact with gender activists and scholars working on gender issues. IWSAW serves as a resource center and knowledge hub for local, regional, and international partners on gender issues in the Arab region.

LAU Engagement: Engaging LAU students, faculty and staff, and integrating the LAU community in the work of the Institute to enhance a university culture committed to gender equality and human rights

IWSAW works with students, faculty and staff across all of its campuses – in Beirut, Byblos, and the LAU New York Academic Center - to foster the integration of gender issues across LAU. Initiatives such as the informal monthly speaking series Food 4 Thought create opportunities to engage the LAU community in activism for social change. This discussion space is open to all at LAU, and collaborates with prominent gender experts to address current topics in gender issues and engage people from diverse backgrounds in debate.

Since 2012, the Institute has hosted a prestigious competition in honor of the late Mary Turner Lane, who founded the Women’s Studies Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The annual Mary Turner Lane award recognizes the best research paper on issues affecting women, publishes the winner in Al-Raida, and promotes the paper widely.

The Institute also supports student clubs to reflect on gender issues in the region through workshops, lectures, and films to build a community committed to gender equality and human rights.

Get Involved

IWSAW welcomes visiting researchers, faculty and scholars from Lebanon and around the world to work with us on pioneering research and development projects related to women in the Arab region. The institute is also open to all forms of collaboration with national, regional and international institutions and organizations, and welcomes invitations to forge new partnerships.

For more information, contact the institute by email or follow us on Twitter or Facebook, to find out how you can get involved in the movement for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Arab region.

Twitter: @IWSAW
Facebook: IWSAW