World Perspectives on Women
The Education of Muslim Women
Shadha al-Jubori, a BBC Arab language radio reporter in Iraq, worries about the education of the next generation of Iraqis. Faced with the severe challenges of surviving during wartime, many children don’t attend school on a daily basis. Sports and other extra-curricular activities no longer exist; teaching methods and resources are antiquated, and teachers are physically and mentally exhausted as they worry about how to teach amid electricity and fuel shortages. Al-Jubori and Bagila Bukharbayeva, the Central Asia correspondent for the Associated Press, shared their concerns about the education and the dangers of working as women journalists at a recent discussion sponsored by the International Center for Journalists. Both women received awards from ICFJ in Washington, DC recently.
While education was compulsory under Saddam Hussein’s regime, now many children must stay home to help their families. “Preparing the next generation is one of the most critical issues facing Iraq,” al-Jubori told Education Update after the panel discussion. The constant fear of insurgency attacks has curtailed the freedom she experienced as a university student in the 1990’s. “It was (university) the best time of my life. Men and women studied together. Now students can’t trust each other and professors can’t teach freely. They worry that a student could attack them,” she said.
Education also suffered following the collapse of the Soviet government bloc. New governments are rewriting history with their own heroes, explained Bukharbayeva, and the renowned rigor of the comprehensive, compulsory Russian education has diminished. Low salaries and poor quality resources are causing many teachers to leave the profession. Additionally, the free market has created private schools that previously didn’t exist, she said. As women journalists in war torn nations, both encounter danger daily. Security dictates al-Jubori’s career and personal life. As a secular woman in a Muslim nation, she’s under constant scrutiny. She varies her routine, leaving home and office at different times, and covers her stories quickly and departs. She keeps her work secret from the few family and friends that remain in Iraq.
For Bukharbayeva, the biggest challenge is the “story itself.” The repressive government policies, including rampant human rights abuses, have lead to the rise of radical Islam and widespread poverty. Unable to return to her home country of Uzbekistan because of her reporting, she works from Kazakhstan.
ICFJ is a non-profit professional organization that promotes journalism worldwide. Founded in 1984, it advocates for independent media and democracy.