Academic Catalog 2018–2019

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Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World


Working at the intersection of academia and activism, IWSAW has been advancing women’s rights to achieve gender equality across the region since 1973.

Working at the intersection of academia and activism, The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) has been advancing women’s rights to achieve gender equality across the region since 1973. IWSAW was established to pay tribute to LAU’s origins as a girls’ school and to fulfill the university’s commitment to education, empowerment, and equality for women and girls.

As the first of its kind in the Arab world and among the first in the world, IWSAW takes pride in its legacy by:

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


IWSAW is committed to advancing gender equality and empowering women in the Arab world and across the globe by engaging in a unique combination of education, research, development programs and outreach with a focus on issues affecting Arab women.

The Institute:

  • Raises the profile of gender as a cross-cutting issue by engaging students, faculty, and staff to integrate gender issues across all programs of study
  • Ensures that gender studies courses and degree programs are available to students from a wide range of disciplines
  • 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
  • Conducts and supports innovative applied research on women and on gender issues in the Arab region
  • Partners with a variety of organizations to deliver development programs addressing key regional issues with a view to promoting gender equality, empowering women, and serving as a catalyst for policy change on women’s rights.

IWSAW: The Five Pillars

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

  1. The Minor in Gender Studies - offered in the LAU School of Arts and Sciences under the Department of Social Sciences - 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 enables students to adopt a gender perspective in understandings of human rights, equality, and social change.
  2. The Masters in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies – also at the Department of Social Sciences - incorporates 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. 
  3. The continuing education Certificate in Gender in Development and Humanitarian Assistance - offered in partnership with LAU’s Continuing Education Program - builds capacity to meet a pressing need for technical skills in development and humanitarian fields. The Certificate covers critical themes such as integrating gender in development programming; applying the women, peace, and security agenda; and gender-based violence prevention and response.

II. Research: Strengthening research on and by women focusing on gender issues, in order to build a body of knowledge to further social change and policy change nationally and regionally.

The Institute’s research contributes much-needed Arab perspectives to global discourses on Arab women and gender equality in the region.

Its biannual 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.

Alongside Al-Raida, the Institute provides critical information on gender issues in the 22 Arab countries through Country Gender Profiles and Regional Gender Themes, as well as addressing 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. Through capacity-building initiatives, IWSAW stimulates the growth of a body of gender-related scholarship originating in the Arab region and in Arabic.

III. 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:

  1. Promoting women’s political participation and enhancing young women’s leadership skills
  2. Strengthening community capacities and building critical life skills through our Qudwa: Basic Living Skills Program to foster sustainable change
  3. Training partners such as the Lebanese security sector in gender equality and gender-based violence prevention and response
  4. Supporting incarcerated women, female migrant domestic workers, and other vulnerable communities, with rights-based approaches to services and support.

IV. 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 locally, regionally and internationally. Outreach also includes engaging in global dialogues and promoting the Institute through social media and communications.  

In Lebanon, the Who is She? online database provides biographical information on leading Lebanese women from various areas of expertise 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, the Institute 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.

Internationally, the Institute organizes conferences and learning events attracting academics, policy-makers and practitioners, parliamentarians, and students from various Arab countries. IWSAW creates 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.

V. 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 campuses to foster the integration of gender issues throughout LAU. Initiatives such as the informal monthly speaking series Food 4 Thought create opportunities to engage the LAU community in activism for social change.

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.

Contact IWSAW

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 and gender in the Arab region. The Institute is also open to all forms of collaboration with national, regional and global institutions and organizations, and welcomes invitations to forge new partnerships.

For more information, contact the Institute by email or social media.

Twitter: @IWSAW