IGS Seminar: Alia Assali “Women in Palestine”


The IGS Seminar “Women in Palestine” was held on June 26. Dr. Alia Assali, the Dean of Faculty of Education and Teachers Preparation at An-Najah National University in Palestine, was invited to speak.

She gave a detailed account of women’s social roles in Palestinian society, such as financial situations, political participation, employment, and education, all of which are undergoing modernization despite the societal emphasis on conserving old traditions. Although the recognition of women’s rights and women’s education levels are increasing in Palestine to the point where 54% of university students are females, the traditions based on patriarchy, such as women becoming homemakers after marriage, are very likely to continue. Assali stated that further changes are necessary until women can appear at the forefront of financial and political activities.

The Q&A session that followed the lecture gave Assali an opportunity to talk about her current situation; she is the only female dean at the campus, working in a society that abides by patriarchy. While fulfilling the roles of a wife and mother within her household, she is a feminist and also a leader of the women’s movement in Palestine. Furthermore, during the session, she talked about people’s lives, culture, identity and the current political climate in the country by comparing them to that of Japan. Although Palestine is more often than not presented simply as a conflict zone in Japanese news programs, this session served as an opportunity for audience to learn about Palestine and its people more intimately.

With the venue being filled to capacity, Assali stated her views by choosing her words carefully but articulating clearly, even in regards to difficult contemporary issues, including the emergence of Islamic fundamentalists. It seemed that the audience was able to learn many things from her attitude and opinions.