Many women who have come to MIT as Ibn Khaldun Fellows have told us that this is a life changing experience. In a recent class, it was the fellows who were able to provide a rare and valuable experience to a group of MIT students enrolled in Prof. Lerna Ekmekcioglu's class "Women and Gender in the Middle East and North Africa." Through the semester, these students explore the lives of women throughout the topic regions to note the vast variety of experiences in this region that too often is lumped together as one by U.S. media.
Drs. Khulood Rambo, Ghadah Al Dabbagh, Abeer Al Olayan, and Sarah Al Humoud participated in this small group discussion where all aspects of life were discussed so that the real lived experience of the fellows could be shared. Prior to the class, students had never met a woman from Saudi Arabia and some had never met someone of any gender from Saudi Arabia. The fellows also expressed that they were happy to have the opportunity to share who they really were with the MIT community as many shared shock and surprise at how Saudi Women are portrayed by U.S. media.
Prof. Ekmekcioglu, expressed after the meeting that the "discussion, which was about being scientists, mothers, women, divorcees, and future mother-in-laws' , was simply eye opening-- nothing like getting to know "real" people from the regions that we study, so many myths were debunked, so many new questions were asked."