Qatari women and their evolving roles in personal and public domains were the subject of two of a strong slate of seven papers that Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) presented at the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) regional conference held at Qatar University (QU) this week.
The paper, ‘Great Expectations: Women, Education and Marriage in Qatar’, presented by NU-Q’s Mohana Rajakumar, won the Early Researcher Award at the conference along with co-author Tanya Kane, both NU-Q adjunct lecturers, and undergraduate research assistant Jessica Hammam. The paper outlined how the current generation of Qatari females, many of whom are attending university and preparing for professional fields, are still expected to fulfil traditional gender roles as wives and mothers, and within the same time-frame as their own mothers or grandmothers.
Dean and CEO of NU-Q, Everette E Dennis, said:
WAPOR is one of the most important venues for new research findings on public communication. NU-Q’s presentations at the conference covered a breadth of topics, including entertainment use in the Middle East, methodological approaches to public opinion research, a qualitative comparison of cultural differences in media coverage and the role of social media.’
Qatari women were likewise the subject that kicked off an all-NU-Q panel, chaired by NU-Q associate dean of research, Klaus Schoenbach. Christina Paschyn, and Kirsten Pike from NU-Q presented the first results of a study showing that majalis al-hareem (‘women’s gatherings’) can function as sites of political and social engagement for Qatari women. The study found that 86% of Qatari women participate in majalis, and the type of majlis—neighborhood, family, religious, or social—is strongly correlated with different levels and attitudes of civic engagement.
Director of the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI), Qatar University, which organized the WAPOR conference, Dr Darwish Al Emadi, said:
This is eye-opening research. People often speak about the male majalis, but the focus on women’s majalis is original, and we at SESRI are thrilled to be facilitating this study.’
The paper is part of a larger collaborative study conducted by NU-Q researchers Jocelyn Sage Mitchell, Tanya Kane, Christina Paschyn and Kirsten Pike, as well as Justin J. Gengler of SESRI and Sadia Mir of VCU Qatar, funded by a grant from the Qatar National Research Fund.
WAPOR holds various regional and international conferences around the world, collaborating with renowned academic institutions. This is the first WAPOR conference to be held in the Arab region, and NU-Q researchers presented a total of seven papers at the conference.
In addition to those presented by Rajakumar and Paschyn, NU-Q made the following contributions to the WAPOR conference: ‘Desire for cultural preservation and attitudes toward entertainment censorship in the Arab Gulf: Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE’, presented by Justin Martin; ‘Labor rights in Qatar: Contrasting the input for the public sphere in three world regions’, presented by Elizabeth Lance; ‘Redefining survey research: Uncovering the truth’, presented by Ilhem Allagui; ‘Understanding Within-Group DIF in Survey Response: Evidence from Three Surveys in Qatar’, presented by Jocelyn Sage Mitchell; and ‘Social media as the source of an alternative public sphere’, presented by Susan Dun.
NU-Q draws from its parent organisation, Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), a distinguished history, famous world-renowned programs and an exceptional faculty. Founded in 2008 in partnership with Qatar Foundation, NU-Q provides a framework through which students explore the world and learn to ultimately shape its future within the distinguished schools of communication, journalism and liberal arts.