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News November 21, 2002

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Middle East women speak about role changes; how they have gained power and respect

Sherifa Zuhur, a visiting associate professor of Islamic studies presented a lecture recently, dis-cussing transitions for women in the Middle East.

It was the first lecture in the First Annual United Nations Study on women at CSU.

Zuhur has studied the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia regions.

She is a research fellow of Beatrice M. Bain, Rockefeller, Yusuf Abd-ejawad, Al-Falah, and Chaim Herzog foundations. Also, she is a former senior Fulbright regional research scholar and past president of the association of Middle East Womenís Studies regarding the role of women in the Middle East. She said westerns think of Middle Eastern women as Muslims but noted that Christians and Jews also live in that region.

Zuhur named some of the most popular misconceptions about the Middle Eastern women: not working outside of the house, and their lack of education.

However, Zuhur research ind-icates that the image of Middle Eastern women has been dramatically changed, in most countries, since 1920. About 51 percent of Middle Eastern women are enrolled in college, which equals the U.S. college enrollment statistics.

She said more women work because of the need for double family income.

Listing remaining problems, Zuhur said women still arenít treated as equal to men in the work place and they have fewer rights in legal procedures.

Zuhur also said there is more leadership by women in the Middle Eastern countries as well as in womenís rights movements compared to previous years.

Discussing cultural differences Zuhur said Middle Eastern women consider being mothers and wives first because of core cultural values and traditions, which explains the small numbers of academic women and women in government positions.

Organizers of the First Annual United National Study on women plan to have a speaker each semester. The organizers said they hope to broaden Americanís knowledge on the rights of women living around the world.

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