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Source: World Bank
17 May 2010




Three Arab women receive Margaret McNamara Fund's awarding scholarships

Available in: العربية, Français

May 2010 - The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund (MMMF) awards educational grants to women from developing countries whose graduate studies and future plans aim to benefit women and children in their respective regions. Commitment to this goal is an essential selection criterion.

Eight women have been awarded a MMMF scholarship this year. Three of them are from the Middle East and North Africa Region, two are from Palestine and one is from Jordan. The first time ever, Palestinians are selected and only the second Jordanian in nearly 30 years of awarding scholarships to women from developing countries.

Middle East and North Africa Recipients

TahreerTahreer Araj, Palestine
PhD candidate, Sociology; Human and Community Development
University of Illinois at Urbana, Illinois
Dissertation: “From Services to Ideological Formation: Building Community Agency in Palestine”



Tahreer’s research examines how services provided by nongovernmental grassroots organizations can lead to progressive community change. She assesses the conditions and types of organizational structures that influence progressive community change. Her research will contribute to debates over the role NGOs play in affecting gender equality in community-based, development programs in Palestine.

Born and raised in a conflict zone, Tahreer’s personal history, as a Palestinian refugee, has shaped her deep commitment to serve marginalized populations, especially women. She has conducted numerous community empowerment training programs for refugee women; she has headed of Amnesty International’s programs in Palestine and she has volunteered for a national gender organization working to secure just laws and policies for Palestinian women.

Tahreer holds a BA in Sociology and a MA in Gender, Development and Law, from Birzeit University, Ramallah, Palestine. As a refugee in the Gaza Strip, Tahreer worked for nine years with two major grassroots NGOs, The Palestinian Agriculture Relief Committee and The Health Work Committee. These experiences in community development, advocacy, and gender inequality influenced her decision to attain a PhD to strengthen her leadership capabilities.

When Tahreer completes her dissertation in Spring 2011, she will take a position at the Institute of Women’s Studies at Birzeit University, where she will teach courses on gender and become chair of the department on gender, training, and outreach. Her goal is to work at both policy and grassroots levels to make a difference in areas of gender equality and social justice for Palestinian women.

RanaRana Obeidat, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
PhD candidate, Nursing; Oncology/Breast Cancer
State University of New York at Buffalo
Dissertation: “Understanding Jordanian Women’s Experiences with the Diagnosis and Treatment for Early Stage Breast Cancer”



This study is the first phase to develop “culturally sensitive decision and support interventions” for Jordanian women with breast cancer. Educating women on treatment options for breast cancer will enhance their ability to make informed decisions.

Rana has twelve years of clinical and grassroots experience in providing breast cancer support and awareness to Jordanian women. Her commitment is evidenced by her role in improving training programs for oncology nurses. In 2009 Rana collaborated with US-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and the Oncology Nursing Society to teach breast cancer courses to Jordanian nurses. She has established programs in underserved areas to educate women about breast cancer and the importance of screening and early detection.

Rana has a BSc in Nursing and an MSc in Oncology from Jordan University of Science and Technology. Before completing undergraduate studies, Rana became department head at King Abdullah University Hospital, where she helped to establish the first oncology unit in Northern Jordan. Working full-time and managing her family, Rana completed her MSc with honors. Currently completing her PhD, Rana is very proud to be the first woman from her village to receive a scholarship to pursue a PhD in the U.S.

Upon completing her PhD in 2012, Rana plans to resume a position at Zarqua University, where she will teach and conduct research on women with breast cancer. She will volunteer at clinics which care for cancer patients and for the Jordan Breast Cancer Campaign. Rana seeks to attain a leadership role in both clinical and educational programs that will improve treatment and awareness about breast cancer for Jordanian women.

KhitamKhitam Abu Hamad, Palestine
PhD candidate, Social and Health Policy Management
Brandeis University, Boston, Massachusetts
Dissertation: “Determinants of Contraceptive Use and the Impact of Maternal and Child Health Service Utilization on Subsequent Use of Contraceptives in the Gaza Strip”


Khitam’s research combines quantitative and qualitative research methods to develop an in-depth understanding of the fertility behavior among Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip and explore women’s perceptions of service integration.

Khitam helped establish and then worked at the first women’s healthcare center in the Gaza Strip. She provided health education sessions in prenatal nutrition, family planning, prevention of diarrheal diseases, and care for newborn infants. As Gaza is a conflict zone, Khitam has volunteered for many first-aid programs which train women to treat the seriously wounded. Khitam also participated in many campaigns to vaccinate children against poliomyelitis and other infectious diseases.

Khitam earned a BSc in Nursing from The Islamic University of Gaza and an MPH from Al-Quds University both in Gaza, Palestine. She also holds an MA in Social Policy from Brandeis University. Before attending Brandeis, Khitam was the head of the primary healthcare information department, Ministry of Health, a lecturer for nursing students, and has published articles on the risk factors associated with preterm birth in the Gaza. She has also contributed to numerous official reports on Palestinian health.

In May, 2011 Khitam will complete her degree and return to Palestine where she will hold positions at the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Community College of Applied Science and Technology. Khitam’s goal is to create and promote programs that will improve the health of women and children in Palestine.


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