Newsletter - December 2013, Issue 4


National Workshop in Palestine
>>  Progresses in WP5 on Scientific literature 
>>  Research on Gender Equality Policies in Science: Field work progress in Egypt

SHEMERA project fostering Bioethics Network on Women’s Issues in the Arab Region

Bioethics Network on Women's Issues in the Arab Region (BiNWIAR) tackles challenges facing women in the region

International Cooperation Projects and Events

Shadia R. Habbal 
Astronomer, Syria

Najat Al Kikhia
Statistics, Lybia

Rowaida Al-Maaitha 

Medical Sciences, Jordan

by Maria Caprile, CIREM, Spain
This fourth issue of our SHEMERA e-newsletter is launched after one year of silence. During this time, we have experienced difficulties in the development of our work: the former coordinator of the project, CIREM, has not been able to cope with the economic crisis and has left the project. The consortium has elected the Université Libre de Bruxelles as the new coordinator.  Prof. Daniéle Meulders is now in charge of the coordination of this project, with the support of Dr. Sile O’Dorchai and myself.  We are now happy to relaunch all project activities after a difficult time!
Our research activities focus on three key themes: statistics on gender and science, gender equality policies in science, and research on gender inequalities in scientific careers. Research is at this stage mainly focused at the national level. In all the Southern Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syrian Arab Republic and Tunisia) national experts are working in order to collect and analyse national statistics, policy examples and relevant literature.
Parallel to this research work, national experts are also involved in dissemination and networking activities, namely the preparation of a national workshop in each country in order to present the results of our project and discuss its policy implications. The national workshops will be addressed to institutional policy-decision makers in the field of science, representatives of scientific institutions and associations of women in science. The national workshops will provide an opportunity to discuss the situation in each country, to learn about the situation in neighbouring countries, and to discuss policy recommendations. Further details about these seminars will be updated on the website of the project. We hope to meet many of you at these seminars!

                            Third Project Meeting Brussels, October 24-25, 2013

ULB – Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

BAY-KKI - Bay Zoltan Alkalmazott Kutatasi Kozhasznu Non profit Kft, Hungary (instead of  TETALAP – Hungarian Science and Technology Foundation)
EKT/NHRF – National Documentation Centre / National Hellenic Research Foundation, Greece
ITU – Istanbul Teknik Universitesi, Turkey
IDIS – Fondazione IDIS - Città della Scienza, Italy
AARC – Arab and African Research Centre, Egypt
ASRT – Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt
CIDDEF – Association culturelle M’Barek Ait Menguelet, Algeria
AU – Alexandria University, Egypt
WSC – University of Jordan, Jordan
RSS – Royal Scientific Society, Jordan
USJ – Université Saint-Joseph, Lebanon
UH2MC – Université Hassan II, Mohammedia-Casablanca, Morocco
IWS – Birzeit University, Palestinian-administered areas
ALEPPO – Aleppo University, Syrian Arab Republic
FSB – Université de Carthage, Tunisia
CIREM – Fundació Centre d’Iniciatives i Recerques Europees a la Mediterrània, Spain 

National Workshop in Palestine
by Ghada Karaki, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Birzeit University and Laura Khoury, Director of Institute of Women's Studies (IWS), Professor of Sociology, Birzeit University
The Institute of Women Studies (IWS) at Birzeit University successfully held its Fifth Annual International Conference 3/13/2013 titled: Education for Liberation and Social Justice. The core idea of the conference was to discuss issues related to education in Palestine as a means of liberation with a special focus on policies in education in Palestine and their dependency on gender. The conference was well attended and participation in plenary sessions was very interactive. We had attendees from diverse backgrounds: students, community members, and academics. The presenters were academics at National universities, international universities, researchers at centers for women studies and development, public sector officials and civil society representatives. The SHEMERA national workshop was integrated in to the broader conference as the diversity of the conference‘s participants would enrich the discussions and give constructive feedback.
Salim Vally, the keynote speaker, the director of the Center of Educational Rights and Transformation (ERT) at the University of Johannesburg inspired the audience with his idea of how education can be a means of liberation by addressing the different profound inequalities that beset the South African educational system. The keynote speech was followed by the first plenary session that addressed the reflections on knowledge, cultural and educational issues. Lessons and real anecdotes on gender and education in Palestine were shared as well as an examination of the education of the oppressed in the Palestinian context. This session shed light on the root cause of the gendered nature of the educational outcome.
The second plenary session represented the “IWS national workshop“, at which Dr. Mirvat Bulbul addressed the SHEMERA findings of Palestinian educational policies in relation to the gender-based statistics of graduates from Palestinian universities. The talk highlighted the root causes for this gender based segregation and examined whether policies to solve such causes exist! This key talk of the session led to important discussions about the continued barriers to women in higher education and science more generally. Interestingly, it had also been argued that the perception of the gender and education policies should be from school to university to labour market in a holistic manner. The final plenary session was related to the particularity of the political situation of Palestine as it analysed education within the context of colonial technologies. This last session contextualized much of the findings made in the previous sessions.
The conference met its main goal of providing a deeper intellectual understanding of the educational issues in their articulation with gender, social, economic, and political structures. It is worth noting that the primary data collected for women in education and higher education of the SHEMERA project will be included in the UN report  for the status of Palestinian women in education for the year 2014. This report will constitute the basis for the five-year strategic plan of the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs (WoMA)  which is expected to utilize the findings and influence the sectorial strategies thereafter. 

Some of conference attendees; students, academics, community members

From left to right: Dr. Abed al-Rahim al-Sheik, Dr. Rabab Tamish, Ms. Intisar Hamdan

Progresses in WP5 on Scientific literature
by Maria Caprile Sociologist, ULB
The main objective of WP5 (Scientific literature: state of the art, data collection and comparative analysis) is to provide an overview and comparative analysis of scientific literature on gender and science in all the Southern Mediterranean countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syrian Arab Republic and Tunisia.
The analysis of scientific literature focuses on the following themes:
  • Horizontal segregation in science careers: unequal presence of women and men in scientific fields and R&D institutional sectors.
  • Vertical segregation in science careers: decreasing presence of women across the scientific hierarchy.
  • The underlying causes and effects of these two aspects, for instance access to education, work-life balance issues, pay gap, mobility-related obstacles, dual careers, evidence of discrimination, working culture, stereotypes, etc.
  • Research on policies towards gender equality in science.
Each selected publication will be adequately referenced, accompanied with an abstract and classified in terms of thematic and methodological approach. The selected literature will be made available through an online database, the “Mediterranean Gender and Science Database”, Med-GSD.

An example of the kind of information that will be available in the data base is the following:

In order to share a common understanding of concepts and methodological guidelines, a workshop was organised in May 2012, addressed to the national experts in charge of the collection of national data. Afterwards, a first set of relevant publications were selected by each partner and preliminary results were discussed in the third project meeting (October 2013, Brussels).
The preliminary results showed that there is very little research on the main topics of gender and science in the Southern Mediterranean countries (i.e horizontal and vertical segregation in scientific careers; underlying causes and effects of these types of segregation; and policies on gender equality in science). Only a few bibliographic references clearly address these issues.
However, there is more substantial research on the root causes of gender segregation, which also applies to gender segregation in scientific careers. Current European research on root causes of gender segregation[1] focuses on four main themes (Gender division of labour and time-related constraints; Gender stereotypes; Education i.e. choice of study field; Subtle discrimination in organisations i.e. gendered obstacles for promotion).
Although the selection and analysis of the literature will be under way until the end of the year, the first set of entries shows that these themes are also relevant in all the Southern Mediterranean countries:
  • Gender division of labour and time-related constraints: women's housework; marriage and women's work, etc.
  • Gender stereotypes: patriarchal values and traditions; prejudices against women's work, etc.
  • Differences between women’s and men’s education: illiteracy; access and performance at primary and secondary school; access to university studies; choice of study field.
  • Subtle gender discrimination in organisations: prejudices against women's promotion to decision-making positions.

Research on Gender Equality Policies in Science: Field work progress in Egypt
by Prof. Dr. Bahia Shaheen, Professor, Faculty of Arts and Dr. Sara Hanafy, Research Program Officer, Alexandria University

The objective of WP4 “Policies: state of the art, data collection and comparative analysis” of SHEMERA project is to collect and analyze gender equality policies in science in Mediterranean countries. Research is now under way at Alexandria University (AU)–Egypt. Field work activities related to WP4 involves documentary analysis for relevant national literature of gender equality policies in science supported by focus group discussions (FGDs) with key informants from relevant Science bodies and Legal frameworks. Seven meetings and FGDs were conducted with different themes (December 2012- April 2013), moderated by Prof.Dr. Bahia Shaheen -AU SHEMERA project coordinator, under the patronage of Prof.Dr. Sedik Abdel Salam –AU vice president for Graduate Studies and Research.

  1. "Polices & Strategies for Women in Science Careers and Higher Education in Egypt"; Prof. Hanaa El-Sayaad, Strategic Planning Unit– Ministry of Higher Education discussed the laws, polices and rules concerning women status in higher education in Egypt.
  2. "Women Status in Higher Education in Upper Egypt"; Prof. Omaima El-Gibaly, Professor-Assuit University; overviewed the situation of female faculty staff in the universities of Upper Egypt; and in Assiut University using some indicators on gender equity. FGD suggested a conceptual framework for the future actions for successes of women in Higher Education.
  3. "Women in Leadership Positions in Science Careers"; Dr. Dina Wafa, Director - GAAP Executive Education, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy – American University in Cairo; introduced the Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies (IGWS) which is the only program in Egypt to provide Master of Arts and Graduate diploma in gender and women’s studies in Middle East and North Africa. Also, overviewed the training programs offered by the GAAP to enhance leadership capacities for women within government agencies in Egypt.
  4. "Women’s Rights in the International Conventions"; Lawyers and Head of Women Affairs Unit -Ministry of Cultural Affair- Alexandria branch, discussed the legislations on gender equality in Egypt based on the international conventions like the Convention on the Elimination of All form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Egypt ratified it  in 1981.
  5. "Working Women Status in Labour law and Social Insurance Law"; key informants from the Central Agency for Organization and Administration and Head of Leadership Center- Ministry of Youth- Alexandria Zone; highlighted the provisions supporting working women in Egyptian Labor and Social Insurance Laws.
  6. "Preferences and Challenges of Female School Students to Study Science Subjects"; took place in El-Nasr Girls Collage (E.G.C) in Alexandria. Key informants: Vice Head of E.G.C and Secondary Grades Girls Students discussed the factors affecting their preferences to study science subjects and the challenges and opportunities they face to pursue a science career after joining the university.
For further mapping of Gender Equality Policies in Science in Egypt, the AU-SHEMERA project team participated in workshop "Equal opportunities in Higher Education: Egypt and Germany in Comparative Perspective"; Cairo University in collaboration with Freie Universitate Berlin, December 2012. Input statement was given by Prof. Bahia Shaheen “Awareness raising for equal opportunities at the university and beyond”. Dr. Sara Hanafy delivered a presentation “Gender Sensitive Research Funding and Networking”.



[1] Bettio, F. & Vershchagina, A. (eds.) 2009, Gender segregation in the labour market. Root causes, implications and policy responses in the EU, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

SHERMERA project fostering Bioethics Network on Women’s Issues in the Arab Region  
by Laila Kamal and Amr Radwan, Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt
As part of SHEMERA project’s dissemination plan, The Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) in Egypt has supported well recognized regional initiatives targeting women in Science in Mediterranean area. Beginning of 2012, ASRT in cooperation with UNESCO and “Regional center of bioethics and ethics in science and technology” has organized regional conference entitled “Current Challenges in Women's Health Care and Medical Research”. It took place in Cairo University Student Campus. The goal of the conference was to realize and try to tackle the challenges that the Arab women face in the health care and medical research. The involvement of participants was high during the different presentations given and culminated in the decision to establish a network “Bioethics Network on Women’s Issues in the Arab Region (BiNWIAR)” through a blog consisting of the Arabic countries aiming at enhancing the health care and medical research for Arab women. An important aim of the network is to raise the awareness about this topic in society.
The network has its first meeting in March 2012 where SHEMERA project was presented and different common points have been discussed. To reach effective results, it was highlighted that the Arab women should be seen in the full context of their lives before deciding on the solutions. The dialogues between the different Arabic countries can help in identifying the common challenges and in benefitting from each other’s experiences and expertise in this field. Different levels in society, individuals and professionals, would need to be involved and, where suitable, the enhancement of their capacity in tackling those challenges would be worked on. To be able to reach more concrete results, the policy makers’ contribution would be required. For the network’s goal to be more integrated in society, a main target of it is to establish links with different agencies like NGOs and to encourage the establishment of dialogues between them about this issue.
The development of the network has been on-going since then, where now the first main step in establishing it is happening as the network’s Strategic Document is in the process of being finalized and the members’ information are being collected by its Secretariat. SHEMERA project has been actively contributing and supporting this initiative among other regional initiatives which could tackle different aspects of gender in science from different prospective.
Ref: Conference: "Current Challenges in Women's Health Care and Medical Research"

Bioethics Network on Women's Issues in the Arab Region (BiNWIAR) tackles challenges facing women in the region
by Orio Ikebe, Program Specialist, Bioethics and Ethics of Science and Technology, UNESCO Cairo Office

It is not limited in the Arab region but women are often less advantaged in accessing health care and treatments and sometimes their bodily integration is compromised over the interest of the family and the community. In the Arab region, there is a significant difference in literacy rate between men and women except in the gulf countries and illiterate women are easily deprived of accurate information concerning their own physical conditions and treatments. In some countries, only a husband and a father can provide consent to the treatment of his wife and children.   
"Bioethics Network on Women's Issues in the Arab Region (BinWIAR)" is a recently established network with support of UNESCO Cairo office and the Academy of Scientific Research and Technologies in Egypt. The network aims to connect individuals and institutions working on health care and research involving women in the Arab region and to promote coordination among them in view of enhancing the well-beings of the women in the Arab world. 
During the first conference of this network held in Cairo last year, current challenges and urgent issues to be addressed by the network were reported by the experts from the region. Correlation between low educational level among women and affirming FGM is reported by an expert from Yemen. From Bahrain, social stigma on young women based on the pre-marital genetic test is reported. An expert from Palestine expressed that scarce human resources and limited access to advanced health care in the occupied territory are urgent issues.
For the moment, there are about 100 members in the network and the work plan for 2013 is under preparation. Depending on the available funds, expertise of the members and the needs in the region, the network will plan workshops and conferences, produce policy recommendations and media campaign to achieve its objectives. For more information and to join the network, please visit (

Science represents an opportunity for sustainable development and peace for all people living along Mediterranean shores. The number of women, capable of creative and original expression within the scientific community and in Mediterranean countries, has grown. Women do not represent an abstract category but rather real people in the flesh, with their own personal experiences and an individual personalities. This is why every issue of the Shemera project e-newsletter offers “portraits” (brief biographical profiles) of three researchers who have all contributed, and continue to do so, in making science an opportunity for sustainable development and peace in their countries and in the entire Mediterranean region.

by Pietro Greco, Science Writer, Fondazione IDIS – Città della Scienza

Shadia R. Habbal
 Shadia R. Habbal, 65, astronomer, was born in Syria.

She graduated in Physics at the University of Damascus in 1970 and three years later she obtained a Master of Philosophy at the American University of Beirut. She then pursued her studies with a course of advanced study in Cincinnati, in the United States, where she earned a Master of Science in 1974 and the title of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in 1977.
After completing her studies, she worked for two years as an Advanced Studies Program Fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. She then taught and did research at Cambridge, United States, and in Wales, UK, before moving to Hawaii and becoming, in 2005, a Faculty Chair at the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii.
Astronomy is her passion. A passion that Shadia Habbal pursues in all fields, both theoretical and observational, by studying in particular the Sun, the solar corona and the heliosphere. Her early efforts at leading an eclipse expedition to India in 1995, have led to the establishment of a small international group of “solar wind sherpas”, as she has nicknamed her group, with record number of discoveries from observations of eclipses between 2001 and 2010.
Shadia has explored in particular the role of magneto-hydrodynamic waves in coronal heating and in the acceleration of the particles that make up the so-called solar wind. Shadia boasts over 100 articles in scientific journals. As it is written in her official curriculum, by using both ground-based (visible and radio) and space-based (visible and ultraviolet) observations, she has explored the behaviour of heavy ion in the solar corona.
In addition to research activities, Shadia Habbal participates in NASA’s counseling groups. She is currently Chair of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. And, as one of her student has written on a social network: Shadia is “a very kind professor. Really wants to help you do well. She's slightly disorganized but it adds to her charm”.

 Najat Al Kikhia
Najat Al Kikhia, 59, is a professor of Statistics at the University of Benghazi, Libya, city where she was born, the last of 11 children.

After graduated in 1977, she moved to New York, where her brother Mansour is president of the Security Council of the United Nations. In the city that many call the “Big Apple”, Najat attended the Columbia University and studied English.
 Najat continued her studies in Statistics and obtained a master’s degree from the Missouri University. When she comes back at home, the continuation of her studies abroad becomes impossible, because her family is persecuted by the regime of Gaddafi. Between the end of 1979 and the beginning of 1980, she joined the University of Benghazi, however, to teach Statistics. These are very difficult years, in a substantial isolation from the rest of the world. Najat Al Kikhia manages to keep herself informed of developments in her field thanks to a brother remained abroad, who buys and delivers in Libya for her the most up to date books.   
To give her the strength to continue to teach during the years of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime is the belief that, sooner or later, the regime would fall and the Libyan people would need young statisticians.
With her clandestine update and the knowledge of her mission, Najat Al Kikhia writes 9 books of Statistics for college and high schools.
“My family is a political one”, she says, as the surname clearly indicates: Kikhia means advisor to the Ottoman Sultan. Najat’s father was the first head of Parliament Cyrenaica (the eastern area of Libya) in 1950, who was elected with a large number of votes. Her uncle, Omar Basha Kikhia, was a member in Almbauthan Turkish Parliament representing Cyrenaica and  was the head of the first Libyan Council after the independence, in 1952. The cousin Fathi Omar Kikhia was the Justice Minister in the first Libyan government and  the first Ambassador of Libya to The USA in 1958. Her brother Mansour was appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs 1972.  He was the former Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations and he served as President of the UN Security Council in September 1976.
Political passion engages Najat, too. In May 2012, after Gheddafi’s fall, she presents herself as a candidate for the election of Benghazi City Council. Najat was the only woman elected, with the highest number of votes. But the activity at the Local Council ends as early as November 2012, when she resigned in protest against the lack of resources and support from the Central Government of Libya. Najat still conducts her social commitment, working above all with the Ayadina Society, for helping the poor with emphasis on educational development of females. Najat is also an active member of  the Veteran Girl Guides.

Rowaida Al-Maaitah
Rowaida Al-Maaitah is not just professor at the Department of Community and Mental Health Nursing of Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan.

She is also Senator in the Upper Parliament of the Kingdom of Jordan and an Advisor to Her Royal Highness Princess Muna El-Hussein for health and community development.
After a degree in Nursing from the University of Jordan in 1978, she received first a Master's and then a Doctoral degree in Public Health from Tulane University in New Orleans, United States. Later she became a post-doctoral fellow in Health Administration and Management at Louisiana State University. She is a recipient of the Shouman Award for Young Arab Scientists in the field of medical sciences.
After she has come back at home, Al-Maaitah has become the first Jordanian woman to serve as university president, university vice-president, Director General of a teaching hospital, and dean at the university. Prior to her current appointment, she served as Minister for Government Performance, Minister of Social Development and President of the Hashemite University.
One of Rowaida’s primary commitment, as Jordan's representative in the Arab Women Organization of the Arab League,  is the promotion of womens’ role in science and politics. She doesn’t  hide difficulties: "Although many measures have been taken by the majority of Arab countries to enhance women’s representation in decision-making positions – she writes –  women’s participation in public life and positions of power have not been achieved the desired level. The Arab region ranks the lowest in the world in terms of women’s participation in parliaments".  Altough  Rowaida Al-Maaitah strongly believes that challenges facing women in sciences and politics are immense, she affirms: "They require the consolidation of all efforts with great belief in women’s capabilities as human beings who are able to lead and shoulder the responsibility in the building of their nations".

International Cooperation Projects and Events
By Flavia Zucco, Italian Association Women and Science, Fondazione IDIS-Città della Scienza
3rd Gender Summit 13 - 15 November 2013 at the Washington Hilton, Washington DC. Diversity Fueling Excellence in Research and Innovation 
The aim of the 3rd Gender Summit, which is focused on North America, is to interconnect all relevant stakeholders in a Call to Action to achieve positive change towards greater diversity in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce and leadership, and greater inclusion of biological sex and gender considerations or the “gender dimension” in research content and process.
The GS3-NA will expand upon the highly influential European Gender Summits and create a global platform for action based exchange and cooperation focused on shaping science and society through the inclusion of gender dimension in research, innovation, and markets for science knowledge.
Established in 2011, the Gender Summit has become the foremost forum for engaging top-level researchers, policy makers, science and innovation leaders, and other and stakeholders in STEM, to address gender issues in research and innovation. The 2013 forum will leverage the international capacity in advancing the knowledge base about the influence of gender considerations on the efficacy, quality and success of various sectors in promoting discovery and innovation in the scientific enterprise.

Structural Changes Encouraging Gender Equality in Scientific Institutions, 21-22 November  2013, Vilnius, Lithuania
Under the Lithuanian presidency, the conference “Structural Change Promoting Gender Equality in Research Organizations” aims to enable and enhance the dialogue and knowledge sharing between all stakeholders taking part in the implementation of the 2020 strategy assuring gender equality in research: policy makers, executives from research funding agencies, academia, research institutions and scientific society in general.
The fast development of knowledge based economies claim a revision of the role and place of science in society and consequently of the science policy. Gender equality in science is a major challenge when implementing ambitious strategies towards the creation of competitive economics based on scientific achievements. Enlarging the pool of talents in science through the inclusion of more women researchers is of high significance. However, in spite of gender equality strategies, the European research, as well as other research areas in the world, still suffers from a considerable loss and inefficient use of highly skilled women.  Structural changes promoting gender equality in research organizations are seen as one of the key success factors for the Europe 2020 strategy and its flagship initiative “Innovation Union”.
Revealing Lives: Women in Science 1830-2000, 22-23 May 2014, The Royal Society, London
WISRNet  (Women In Science Research Network)is a project that brings historians, archivists and practising scientists together to research women's participation in science and learned societies in Britain since 1830. Our aim is to understand women's low visibility and historic exclusion, to uncover further avenues for research and to develop strategies to improve the participation of women in science today.
STENCIL, 20 November, 20th Campus Colloquium, Bologna, Italy
The European project Comenius STENCIL ( aims to offer to European  teachers and science educators  a common platform to contribute to the innovation of science teaching.
During the 3rd International Conference STENCIL  some research projects  implemented with schools were be presented:
After the conference Cristina Mangia from the Italian Association promoted and convened a Campus “Are we really free to choose?” on the condition of women in science and in teaching .

Cover images refer to the scientific research of Shadia R. Habbal presented in this issue. She has explored the role of magneto-hydrodynamic waves in coronal heating and in the acceleration of the particles that make up the so-called solar wind.

Fondazione IDIS – Città della Scienza, Naples (Italy)
Anne - Marie Bruyas, Pietro Greco, Michaela Riccio, Flavia Zucco
Fondazione IDIS – Città della Scienza, Naples (Italy)
Attilio Iannitto, Roberto Paura