Visitors from IraqMarch 26, 2008
As part of a weeklong tour to learn about American higher education programs, nine Iraqi university administrators and deans visited AAUW this week. At a meeting led by Gloria Blackwell, Director of Fellowships, Grants, and International Programs, AAUW staff shared information about the programs we offer to help students and administrators in higher education. The Iraq administrators were particularly interested in learning about the international fellowships AAUW offers and our opinion on the benefits of single-sex education.
Only one of the visiting administrators was a woman, Amina Namma Al-Thwani, dean of the Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Baghdad. She spoke about the status of women and education in Iraq and proudly told us that, despite the many years of war and resulting hardships women faced in their daily lives, they make up the majority of university students. Iraqi women view education as crucial, she said, and often make sacrifices to ensure that their children can attend school. She also remarked that the first female minister of higher education in the Arab world was a woman from Iraq, appointed in the 1940s.
While we were meeting, new conflicts were occurring in Basra and Baghdad — home to four of the visitors. It was humbling to see how dedicated these men and woman are to improving their educational institutions even as the violence in their cities continues.
As we stood together for photos, the administrators thanked us for hosting them. Amina Al-Thwani was grateful to have made contact with an organization specifically supporting women in higher education. She is looking forward to telling her students about AAUW and asked for a membership brochure. We felt an international gap had been bridged as we stood together, all persons sharing the common goal of improving educational opportunities for women around the world.