In Field Trips

Celebrating International Women's Day as a HERMA student

Today is the 8th of March. It is the day that societies celebrate their women; it was basically made for the working women, ignoring that the women whom be called “housewives” are doing great unpaid jobs. Women in numbers are half of the population in most societies, and are responsible to take care of the other half in most communities. Women have great power and are present in economy, politics and social life. In my country, there were many role models of women who were leaders in their fields, and I wish to join that list one day.

Unfortunately, living in a patriarchal society connects the achievement of a woman to her MALE kinship, they call her “the sister of MEN”.
Our professor Lena Stefanou chose this day to be a good memory for us as students, so we went to the Industrial Gas Museum as part of our field trips in our studies. A great photo to all of female students was taken at the highest point of the museum.


Dr. Lena Stefanou and female students on top of the world

Then we had a great lunch in her cozy apartment. Miss Lena gave us in this day another lesson of how energetic and educated a woman should be; how she prepared food in the morning, cleaned her flat, prepared for the tour, heated the food again, had us in her home with a smile, danced a little bit, and after all that, was present in social and academic events in the evening! How strong a woman could be!


Dr. Lena Stefanou and all students at the Industrial Gas Museum in Athens, one of a long string of activities during her day

When I arrived home I started researching for my next assignment, Mar Saba Monastery which belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, built in 484 A.D and locates few kilometers from Bethlehem. I planned last year to visit and couldn’t make it. I remembered when I asked my landlord how to reach the site, he told me (but you can’t enter the site). During that time, I didn’t analyze why as I was in complicated period. While reviewing the history of the site I discovered: it is not allowed (for women) to enter it as the monks keep an ancient tradition.
Being forbidden to enter ancient sites because of my gender is not new for me; two years ago when I was doing Umra in Madinah/Saudi Arabia I saw some men climbing stairs that lead to tower where you can see the whole mosque (built in 622 A.D and it is the second holy place for Muslims) but some guards stopped me claiming that it is not allowed to women. And it is not the only archaeological sites that has restrictions for women to visit, several places in Saudi Arabia that belong to pre-Islamic and post-Islamic era aren’t open to women, while some of them are open for two hours /three days a week.
Whilst there are no texts in both religions justifying that women can’t enter those historical sites, I wonder why this is still happening in the 21 century!
You might find it weird why a woman should care about that! As a future heritage manager I can’t hide my feminist side; for the last four years during my voluntary works with a cultural center I faced huge challenges to work in this field because of my gender.
On International Women’s day, I remind myself of my mission: work harder to change all traditions, the patriarchal system, and norms that undermine women or prevent them from visiting/working in historical sites.
Women are not second-class citizens or half-humans. A woman is: a sister who helped Moses(PBUH) to survive; a single mother who raised Jesus(PBUH); a wife who supported Mohammad (PBUH).
My mission is to be a future Manager who will assist her community to be better.

DSC_2381.JPGMs. Jawida Mansour is a student in the Kent/AUEB MA in Heritage Management programme. She holds degrees in architectural engineering and business administration and has eight years of experience in economic development, concentrating on entrepreneurship among Palestinian youth. She is an outspoken social critic, having published numerous articles in local journals on issues related to women and youth in society. She is driven by her passion to empower women and youth both politically and economically using cultural heritage and national traditions.

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