The Enigma of Women's Education in the Middle East

By Murphy, Christopher | International Educator, September/October 2009 | Go to article overview
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The Enigma of Women's Education in the Middle East


Murphy, Christopher, International Educator


IN A RECENT INTERVIEW in Forbes, Mahnaz Afkhami, president of Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace was asked about the current state of women's education in her native Iran. "In many Muslim-majority countries, women are extraordinarily active and involved in education. More than 60 percent of university students in Iran are women, and you have skilled women working, many in leadership positions. But you also have really strong conservative forces inside and outside government and a set of family laws that are archaic," she said.

Our cover story brings us the first in an occasional series of articles on the state of women's education, especially higher education, in different regions of the world. This feature paints a picture of the Middle East where much progress is being made for women's education in several nations. But the picture can be complex and in some cases ambiguous. Iran, for example has a long history of higher education availability for women that might be considered an exemplar for the region. But, as Afkhami points out, despite the high level of women's academic achievement in Iran, the nation continues to limit opportunities for its daughters.

The recent upheavals after the disputed election this spring showed that many women there are looking for ways to liberalize the regime.

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