A Story of Chal­leng­ing So­cial Stereo­types:

The First and Only Cul­tural Center of Women in Duhok

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - By Sh­van Goran

In an area where con­ser­va­tive tribal and re­li­gious be­liefs have rooted deeply in the so­ci­ety, it was es­pe­cially hard for women to have op­por­tu­nity to work be­yond kitchen’s bound­ary just few years ago. A hand­ful group of women broke the ice two years ago, es­tab­lish­ing a cul­tural center for women to be counted the first and the only cul­tural center for women in Bar­darash Dis­trict and Duhok prov­ince.

In an area where con­ser­va­tive tribal and re­li­gious be­liefs have rooted deeply in the so­ci­ety, it was es­pe­cially hard for women to have op­por­tu­nity to work be­yond kitchen’s bound­ary just few years ago. A hand­ful group of women broke the ice two years ago, es­tab­lish­ing a cul­tural center for women to be counted the first and the only cul­tural center for women in Bar­darash Dis­trict and Duhok prov­ince.

Peo­ple and gov­ern­ment are said to have had a bad ex­pe­ri­ence with cul­tural cen­ters in Kur­dis­tan Re­gion, it’s said about most cul­tural cen­ters in the Re­gion to have been a source of gain­ing money to a group of peo­ple, putting a heavy bur­den on gov­ern­ment’s fi­nance, and achiev­ing less in rais­ing aware­ness of peo­ple and youths’ needs in the so­ci­ety.

Their or­di­nary ac­tiv­i­ties are not rel­a­tively easy, as they say be­ing women seen out­side par­tic­i­pat­ing in cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties may not leave a good im­pres­sion on them in the so­ci­ety, but still, they say they have strug­gled to change this stereo­type, and have suc­ceeded at some ex­tent. This is Shaz­ade Cul­tural Center of Women in Bar­darash Dis­trict.

It took them al­most a year to get their li­cense from the gov­ern­ment amid rou­tines and bu­reau­cracy in gov­ern­ment of­fices. Now they’re fi­nan­cially funded by KRG’s Min­istry of Cul­ture and Youth as the case with all other cul­tural cen­ters in the Re­gion. They have started work­ing in Bar­darash Dis­trict as soon as their es­tab­lish­ment has been an­nounced a year ago. Their ac­tiv­i­ties range be­tween cour­ses for elim­i­nat­ing il­lit­er­acy among women to cour­ses of jour­nal­ism and learn­ing for­eign lan­guages, in ad­di­tion to con­duct­ing sem­i­nars and work­shops re­lated to women’s is­sues and tol­er­ance in so­ci­ety.

The head of Shaz­ade Cul­tural Center of Women in Bar­darash, Amira Ra­sool says their center is a golden op­por­tu­nity for them to raise is­sues re­lated to women’s ed­u­ca­tion and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. She says not far from now, an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of women grew up with­out ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, even sev­eral years ago, girls were not al­lowed to go to high school. Ra­sool says now the sit­u­a­tion has changed and gov­ern­ment’s of­fices are full of qual­i­fied and ed­u­cated women, al­though un­der al­most the same tribal men­tal­ity.

Among around 100 mem­bers of the center, few are univer­sity grad­u­ates, what Amira Rassol con­sid­ers this some­thing nor­mal as ‘work­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence do not solely rely on aca­demic cer­tifi­cate’, but rather on the morale and be­liev­ing in the sa­cred­ness of what you do. She says they’ve tried to bring the grad­u­ate women close to the center as much as pos­si­ble, as the center serves in­dis­tinc­tively all women. “The prob­lem is that not all women be­lieve in what we do, or even if some did, they wouldn’t have the op­por­tu­nity to co­op­er­ate with us or at­tend our ac­tiv­i­ties, be­cause of the afore­men­tioned rea­sons.” ar­gues Rassol. She be­lieves that this con­cept will change to­wards bet­ter in the com­ing years as the num­ber of grad­u­ate women in the dis­trict in­crease and they work be­side men in ev­ery as­pect of life.

One of the is­sues the center al­ways raises is do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, what’s been known as vi­o­lence against women. Head of Shaz­ade Center says they will tackle the is­sue grad­u­ally through stud­ied plans, start­ing with rais­ing aware­ness among women, es­pe­cially in sub­dis­tricts and vil­lages.

De­spite the ex­is­tence of 15 of­fices of com­bat­ing it, vi­o­lence against women has in­creased by 25% in 2013, ac­cord­ing to a statis­tic by Duhok Direc­torate of Com­bat­ing Vi­o­lence against Women. Dr. Sami Jalal, head of the Direc­torate had said in a press con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber last year that this con­sid­ered some­thing nor­mal, be­cause more pe­ti­tions are filed as the num­ber of the of­fices in­crease across the prov­ince.

Of­fices of com­bat­ing vi­o­lence against women and NGOs have been con­duct­ing sem­i­nars and work­shops ad­dress­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, but all th­ese ef­forts do not seem to have been very ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing the vi­o­lence in Duhok Prov­ince. The head of Shaz­ade Center ar­gues that their center will not be al­ter­na­tive of of­fices of com­bat­ing vi­o­lence, they seek the same pur­pose and all in­tend to achieve sim­i­lar goal.

Amira Ra­sool points out that in a dis­trict like Bar­darash, ex­is­tence of such a center is of great im­por­tance. “The center’s been the only cul­tural place in Dis­trict of Bar­darash where women can gather and dis­cuss var­i­ous is­sues” she says, “but still, the staff is in des­per­ate need of tech­ni­cal sup­port to have our net­work widened and to cover larger tar­get of women in the area and the center’s build­ing is in­ad­e­quately small”

The head of Shazae Center says they feel proud of be­ing the first cul­tural center of women in Duhok prov­ince, hop­ping that ev­ery dis­trict has such a center, pro­vid­ing that the staff work­ing in it should be close enough to women to know their suf­fer­ings and needs in the so­ci­ety. “This is the key point in the suc­cess of any women-re­lated cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tion” she points out.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iraq

© PressReader. All rights reserved.