Daily Archives: March 8, 2012

Jordanian women become more powerful in public

Students and faculty gathered in Jonasson Hall for a slideshow presentation about one professor’s summer trip to Jordan. The presentation, “Remarkable Jordanians: Politics, Gender and Society in the Middle East,” took place March 13 and focused on the Arab uprisings, tension between Israel and the Palestinians, Jordanian politics and gender relations in Jordanian society.

Dawn Nowacki, professor of Political Science, shared her photos and experiences from a faculty development seminar hosted by the Council on International Educational Exchange.

“The CIEE has 25 programs globally,” Nowacki said. “Mostly it does study abroad programs, but it also puts on these seminars.”

The seminars take place during the summer. They are for U.S. professors who think it would be useful in their teaching or research, Nowacki said.

This particular seminar focused on Jordanian female activists for women’s rights. Nowacki said her group met with women who represented every facet of the business world.

“These are very powerful young women,” Nowacki said. “There were artists, authors, lawyers, health experts, a female mayor and a female member of parliament who was the only woman to be elected in her own right.”

Nowacki explained that 12 seats in parliament are reserved for women, so most female members of parliament got their positions by default. This woman, however, had enough votes to be elected even without the reserved seats.

“We had meetings with about 20 different people,” Nowacki said.

Nowacki said the group also included female bloggers who organized public debates and discussions about politics, a topic that has traditionally been the domain of men in Jordan.

At the end of her presentation, Nowacki answered questions from the audience. These covered education, optimism and pessimism in women’s circles, Rania Al Abdullah, the Queen consort of Jordan, the lives of Palestinians in Jordan, the strategies of the female bloggers and the hijab, one of the forms of women’s head coverings in Islam.

“It was interesting that with professional women, the older women tended to wear no hijab, while the younger women tended to be Islamically dressed,” Nowacki said. “There were a lot of reasons for wearing or not wearing hijab. You would see a difference between when they were doing business with westerners and when they were dealing with tribal leaders. Some of the women said they wore hijab to enhance their credibility.”

Nowacki said the International Programs Office asked her to put on a presentation, but she had been intending to present anyway.

“It just forced me to finally put it together,” Nowacki said. “The seminar went on for four or five days and I was frantically taking notes the whole time. I really didn’t know much about the political situation in Jordan before I went.”

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Sharon Gollery/
Culture editor
Sharon Gollery can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com.