By Nazeefa Ahmed, October 19 2022—
On Oct. 3, Arch Award recipient Aamir Jamal spoke at one of University of Calgary’s Alumni All Access events, titled The gate keepers: engaging men in gender justice and girls’ education in Northwest Pakistan. Jamal spoke about his research, projects and personal anecdotes regarding his journey to his present achievement and projects.
Jamal received the Arch Award for International Career Achievement this year. This award recognizes individuals whose international work brought distinction to themselves and their communities. Jamal is also an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work and serves as the director for Global Engagement and International Partnerships and Coordinator for the International Community Development (ICD) Specialization Program.
In his talk, Jamal described how he questioned gender norms as a child growing up in Pakistan. This critical thinking, according to him, shaped his ideology and career.
“When I would go see my uncles and other family, I would ask myself, ‘Why do the women eat after the men at gatherings?’” said Jamal. “I would see girls on the streets doing childcare while their brothers were getting educated in school. I would always ask myself, ‘Why?’”
Jamal discussed the idea of a gatekeeper: men in the community with the invisible power to free women by empowering them to get educated. He described how his grandfather was the figure in his family that opened the gate for his mother to become educated.
“One man stood up for his daughter and changed the world,” he said. “My mother fell in love with education and became a teacher and improved her community. A women-only approach [to girl’s education] is not sufficient. There needs to be community involvement of engaged men in gender justice.”
In his concluding statement, Jamal described what the award means to him, as well as future projects that will engage men in more developing countries.
“I feel great about it but this award is not for me,” he said. “It is for the whole team, for the people in the field in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These people are working hard with all of these challenges and resilient in these hostile environments. This award will have an impact on our work collectively.
“Our team is now engaging those beautiful men in our communities,” he continued. “Those men who are supporting gender justice and supporting girls’ education. We are asking [for] stories from them. We are role modeling them. We are determining the motivating factors from them so we can showcase these factors to the rest of the men in the population.”
Jamal’s work extends beyond women’s education, as he pursues projects relating to domestic violence and gender justice in Muslim majority countries. He hopes to have the active involvement of men within these communities.
“We have a global study going on in Muslim majority nations in which we are involving men in Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Qatar, Morocco and Iraq.” he said. “We are finding men who have an active role in the prevention of domestic violence as well.”
For more information about Jamal and his work visit the U of C website.