Nadia Abu Zaher is one of the most outstanding representative of the Huwwara village intellectuals, and a leading figure for Palestinian women. Why? The following story is a very good example of the ongoing struggle women in Palestine have to put forth to be recognized as equal citizens with men, mostly when their education, personal and professional development is in question.
She was born in Nablus and finished her elementary and secondary education in Huwara, finishing as one of the top students in the Nablus region. With this exceptional background, she had no difficulty entering An-Najah National University; the only impediment reaching this goal was her family. Her loved ones refused her to enroll in the Department of Journalism at An-Najah National University, because according to Huwara village`s tradition, being a journalist does not comply with women’s role and position in the society.
After a long battle with her family, she finally enrolled at the university, specializing in Journalism and Public Relations. She was the first woman who graduated in 1995 as a journalist from Nablus University, and very soon found a job at the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). In this position, she dealt with women’s issues and did public relations.
After a few years of working at the PLC, the Ford Foundation gave her a scholarship to do her Masters degree in Human Rights at Birzeit University in Ramallah. Again, she had to convince her family and again, she was the first women from her village who attended this University and got her MA degree.
Her professors convinced her not to give up and to complete her education with a doctoral degree. After working a few years for the PLC research unit, she enrolled at Cairo University, becoming a doctoral student in Political Science. Village tradition demanded that she be accompanied by her mother while she was a PH.D student in Egypt. As so many times happened in her life, she was the first women from Nablus district enrolled in a PH.D program in Cairo.
Nadia is now finishing her doctoral studies. When asked about the accomplishments she achieved and about her future plans, she said: “ I am very pleased with myself and my achievements. After struggling so much with my family, everybody is proud of me, even the community where I live. I am proud that I achieved my goals, I am proud that I paved the road for other women to study journalism and to enroll in Birzeit University. I would like to become a university professor and to do something for women at policy level, particularly in rural villages, broadening their rights in Palestine and their involvement in the decision-making process.”