Gender, Development, and Human Rights Work in North Africa and the Middle East Workshop

On Tuesday, October 25th, educators and community members gathered at Hamilton International Middle School for a Global Classroom Teacher’s Workshop on Gender, Development, and Human Rights Work in North Africa and the Middle East.
The workshop featured University of Washington Professor Paula Holmes- Eber, and 6 International Visitors, who are here in Seattle as part of the HANDS Professional Fellows Program, in partnership with the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Professor Holmes-Eber Paula Holmes-Eber, PhD is Affiliate Professor at the Middle East Center, Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Northwestern University and a B.A. in Psychology from Dartmouth College. Her research and expertise focuses on women and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. At the Workshop, she discussed the origins, spread, and varying interpretations of Islam, spoke about women’s rights and Islamic in contexts across North Africa and the Middle East, and described socio-political shifts that occurred across the MENA region since the ‘Arab Spring.’ After setting the context for further discussion, Paula was joined by a panel of HANDS Fellows, who helped to provide more personal perspectives on changes in North Africa and the Middle East.


Professor Holmes-Eber is the author of numerous scholarly publications on Muslim women, culture, conflict and change in the Middle East including five books on the subject: Culture in Conflict: Irregular Warfare, Culture Policy and the Marine Corps (Stanford University Press), Daughters of Tunis: Women, Family and Networks in a Muslim City (Westview Press) and a three book series by MCU Press on the cultural aspects of conflict: Operational Culture for the Warfighter: Principles and Applications; Applications in Operational Culture: Perspectives from the Field and Case Studies in Operational Culture.

The focus of the HANDS fellowship is on NGO Development for Organizations Improving the Status of Women. HANDS Fellows are employed as human rights advocates, health workers, educators, and advocates for the rights of women and girls. Our workshop panelists from Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco spoke about their work to advance the status of women in their countries, shifting climates in North Africa after the Arab Spring, and their visions for their countries in the future.

Abdelaziz Taouri has dedicated his career to increasing awareness and economic opportunities for women in rural Morocco. He currently works at the Timoulilt Association for Development, an NGO which focuses on development in his rural region of Morocco. He is also working with the U.S. Embassy in Morocco to implement a region-wide project to raise awareness among rural women of their political and civic rights and to encourage women to interact with the political system.


Esraa Thabet Fahmy Moustafa works as a Programs Director at Make a Contribution in Alexandria, a social development organization which works on human rights issues, especially as they relate to women, youth, and refugees. Her work for women includes conducting research into women’s empowerment in the Middle East and designing events to support women’s empowerment among female factory workers and refugee women.


Samar Adel Mahmoud Hafez works as International Relations Manager and in communications for an organization in Egypt called Human Rights Association for Community Development. Samar works in a rural context, and is passionate about empowering rural women in Egypt.


Montassar Adaili works for an NGO in Tunisia called the Bidaya Association, which focuses on education and support of youth and women. His current work includes a door to door project to raise awareness of gender-based pay disparity and a sewing workshop to provide vocational training and employment opportunities to women.


Thank you to Paula Eber-Holmes for generously committing her time and to our HANDS Fellows for sharing their work and stories. Thank you also to Hamilton International Middle School for hosting this program, and to the Center for Global Studies at the University of Washington for supporting our workshop series.