Institute of Women's Studies

The Institute of Women’s Studies (IWS) at Birzeit University was established in 1994 and is the first institute of its kind in Palestine and the Arab region to offer a full academic program in women’s studies.

Beginning in 1994, the Institute offered a selection of elective courses in women studies for undergraduate students, followed in 1998 by the creation of the Master’s Program in Gender and Development – the first full degree program in gender studies in the Arab region. Finally, in 2015 the Institute expanded its teaching programs and founded the undergraduate minor in women’s studies.

Since its establishment and based on its cross-disciplinary academic approach to women and gender, the Institute has remained committed to the furthering the goals of social justice through its teaching, research, and community outreach programs.

Over the last decade, the Institute has sought to realize the following goals including: contributing to the development of a Palestinian vision for the academic study of gender at the BA and MA levels; promoting an interdisciplinary approach to gender studies; contributing to the development of theoretical and conceptual frameworks based on critical methodologies and forms of knowledge production in gender analysis; contributing to Palestinian research competencies while enabling researchers to use feminist analytical tools in order to understand mechanisms of oppression, so as to develop emancipatory alternatives.

The Institute aims to raise social justice and gender justice issues in the Palestinian society in dialogue with social, political, and feminist movements, thus seeking to link knowledge with practice through the production of in-depth research that speaks to the Palestinian reality in its colonial specificity.

  • Teaching
  • Research:

The Institute of Women's Studies conducts research on the lived realities of Palestinian women, the dynamics of gender relations, and the constructions of femininity and masculinity in the Palestinian society. Research output is used to conceptualize and understand Palestinian women’s status and contribute to the process of social change in society through policy formulation and gender and development planning. In addition, the Institute’s research seeks to promote and contribute to ongoing public debate about issues of women’s rights and gender justice in the Palestinian context.

The Institute has undertaken a wide variety of research and published a wide array of studies, working papers, and status reports. Additionally, the institute produces an annual journal, “Review of Women’s Studies,” that publishes a wealth of original and timely research that advances understanding of gender issues in the Palestinian society across a range of academic disciplines.

  • A community outreach program 

The Institute directs its outreach activities, including training and research, towards a range of actors and institutions, including ministries, local and international non-governmental institutions and feminist organizations.

  • Developing the field of women and gender studies in ways that are more relevant to addressing emerging questions related to gender relations as they are shaped by the dynamic social, political and economic processes that characterize the Palestinian colonial context.
  • Developing theoretical and conceptual frameworks for gender analysis and contributing to emerging local, regional and international debates on women and gender in the Arab region and beyond.
  • Contributing to the development of political, developmental and feminist discourses that empower the steadfastness of Palestinians within the colonial context.
  • Contributing to the development of competent specialists able to integrate a gender–justice approach to their work either as development practitioners or researchers. 
  • Developing critical and analytical thinking regarding social, political and economic gender related questions.

  • Networking and increasing cooperation with other departments at Birzeit University as well as other local, Arab and international universities, particularly in the Global South, to emphasize the importance of the plurality of knowledges and experiences in the field of gender studies and the importance of exchanging knowledge among scholars and scholarly programs locally, regionally and internationally.

  • Contributing to the transformation of Birzeit University into a safe and just working and learning environment through combating gender-based discrimination and all other forms thereof.

  • Supporting the expansion and deepening of the network of Palestinian women's institutions.

  • IWS Library: The library offers core services supporting the teaching, learning and research needs of the Institute and its students. It has become an essential source of knowledge across the University as it holds more than 11,000 books in total, offering a cross-disciplinary collection of gender studies titles.
  • The Hala Atalla Scholarship Fund (HASF): Through sustained fundraising efforts for its dedicated female scholarship fund, the Institute strives to make higher education equally accessible to young women across Palestine. The HASF was established in order to support the higher education of female students from low-income families, including those who face particular contextual hardships and barriers. The fund ensures that these students do not drop out of their academic programs as a result of the escalating social, economic and political conditions in Palestine.