Stereotypes abound about women’s limited roles in the Middle East, particularly in the Arab Gulf. A closer look at Qatar, however, challenges misconceptions about female repression and exclusion.
Leadership, voting rights, education levels and participation in the workforce all measure highly among women in Qatar, according to recent research, and NU-Q is playing a key role in finding out the drivers of, and obstacles to, this phenomenon.
“We want to understand what encourages female engagement in Qatar and what limits it,” said Jocelyn Sage Mitchell, assistant professor in NU-Q’s liberal arts program, and the primary investigator on a study entitled ‘Qatari Women: Engagement and Empowerment.’
“Our study is the first of its kind to survey a large sample of Qatari women about their participation in social groups and their choices in the economic, educational and political spheres. We anticipate that our findings will help us see more clearly the link between this type of participation and general societal engagement among women.”
The research will involve surveying nearly 1,000 Qatari women about their participation in female social groups known as majlis al-hareem, ranging in type—family, social, neighborhood, intellectual, religious—and involvement. Through audiovisual recording and ethnographic observation, the study results will also feature rich contextual elements.
The research team consists of 15 female NU-Q students, overseen by three NU-Q faculty members joined by three researchers from other Qatar-based universities.
Most of the students involved in the study are Qatari nationals. Through their work on the project they will gain a strong sense of what a social research project entails at every stage. And without them, this research would be impossible, Mitchell said, since it involves access to and discussions with Qatari women, and detailed interpretations of their responses.
The findings will be presented throughout the fall at museums, conferences and film festivals in Qatar and internationally.
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