A woman’s role in society can be a touchy subject in Arab countries. But with the establishment of the new women’s center at the School of Foreign Service’s Qatar campus, Georgetown has reaffirmed its commitment to promoting equal opportunity for all.
Qatar, a state with a booming economy, seeks to balance modernity and conservatism. One of Qatar’s emblems of innovation is Education City, a 2,500-acre hub of higher learning that is home to branches of several American universities, including Georgetown.
For women, however, modernity and conservatism can sometimes clash. As SFS-Q’s website notes, women are sorely underrepresented in professional fields in Arab nations. In addition, international female students – especially those that arrive from more liberal countries – must learn to adjust to the stricter behavioral and appearance standards of Qatari society.
For these women, the women’s center will create an invaluable safe haven to discuss issues relevant to their lives and provide a supportive environment for their ambitions.
Though the women’s center in Qatar takes its cue from the center here on the D.C. campus, its mission should be tailored to the unique experience of a female undergraduate in the Persian Gulf region. Perhaps even more than its sister branch, the women’s center in Qatar has the opportunity to empower women on campus by providing a free forum to discuss their aspirations and concerns.
SFS-Q educates its students in the study of international relations, but it also exists to teach students to explore their potential beyond college. Women at SFS-Q have already taken a big step by enrolling, but the women’s center can prepare them for the unique challenges of living and achieving their goals in the Arab world.