Established in 2007, the Dubai School of Government’s Gender and Public Policy Program aims to address the challenges facing research and policy making on gender related issues in the Arab world. Much of the contemporary policy debate about gender in the Arab world details gender inequalities in virtually every aspect of public life. Although gender disparities are global phenomena, gender inequalities in health, educational, political and economic opportunity, legal access, and citizenship rights are often cited as inimitable characteristics of the Arab region. Indeed, despite the diversity of economic, political, and legal conditions among Arab countries, they are all situated among the lowest ranking countries on a variety of global gender empowerment indices. However, there are a number of serious challenges facing a research and policy agenda of social transformation and gender equality in the Arab world. Obstacles include the futility of androcentric approaches to meaningful knowledge production, problematic enthnocentric approaches to public policy, and the lack of both accurate data and a sufficiently supportive environment for networks of scholarship to thrive at the regional level.
Calls for reform by indigenous activists, women’s groups, and Arab development experts, in addition to the mounting “external” pressure from global economic and political actors, place Arab women at the center of dominant discourses on modernity, progress, and competitiveness. This leaves policy makers in the Arab world with the serious challenge of responding with appropriate prescriptions that range from individual empowerment strategies that attempt to “fix the women” to institutional and national level interventions that require nothing short of a paradigm shift.
The Gender and Public Policy Program supports theoretically and methodologically rigorous research that conceptualizes, problematizes, and analyzes gender gaps while, at the same time, linking the research to agendas and instruments for informed policy action. In addition to applied policy research, the program aims to support the production of innovative social science scholarship on gender in the Arab world which interrogates androcentric biases and challenges ethnocentric assumptions about Arab women. As part of a leading regional institution with strong links to the international community, the Gender and Public Policy Program is well positioned to create a network of regional and international scholars that can contribute to an empowering discourse about men and women in the region. The program continues to work diligently on creating partnerships that help to build a proactive and responsive knowledge base about gender in the Arab world.
Important functions of the Gender and Public Policy Program include informing organizational policy on gender-related issues through policy formulation, filling knowledge gaps on gender issues through knowledge production, and presenting alternative empowering views that challenge hegemonic notions by impacting discourse.