In majaalis al-hareem: The complex professional and personal choices of Qatari women

Scholarly Work


Published in the DIFI Family Research Proceedings: Vol. 2015 1, 4. Journal published by Qatar Foundation. Winner of Best Paper Award in “The Role of State Policies on Family Formation and Stability” pillar.

By Jocelyn Sage Mitchell, Christina Paschyn, Sadia Mir, Kirsten Pike and Tanya Kane

INTRODUCTION: Our research team, composed of six faculty members from Northwestern University in Qatar, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and Qatar University, as well as fifteen undergraduate students from Northwestern University in Qatar, studied the intersection of two pressing concerns—increasing female participation in education and the work force, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the family and ensuring that women’s personal needs are met—through quantitative and qualitative methods. In particular, the faculty mentored the student researchers on the use of ethnographic methods of participant-observation in majaalis al-hareem (“women’s gatherings”; singular . majlis) to provide context for our survey response statistics. Our research reveals the conflict between, on the one hand, Qatari women’s increased ability to pursue higher education and enter the public sphere through participation in the workforce or political arena and, on the other hand, traditional social norms and attitudes that prioritize domestic life—a conflict that necessitates complex personal and professional choices for Qatari women today.

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