Middle East Water Research
For the final semester of the MIWM program, I was a visiting research intern at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES). AIES is an environmental education and research institute that focuses on cooperatively solving environmental challenges in the Middle East. My research project involved working directly with Bedouin communities, who are traditionally nomadic or semi-nomadic, in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. The project focused on identifying the gender issues related to water resources, with particular emphasis on how these issues are embedded within the social, political, economic and environmental context of the area. This project aimed to identify potential improvements that could be made to water resource management in these communities with attention on expanding upon the knowledge of the Bedouin women as the primary household managers.
Gaining access to Bedouin communities required extensive networking and trust building. As someone who has never been to the Middle East and speaks neither Hebrew nor Arabic, I was a fish out of water at the beginning. I partnered with two female students from AIES (a Jordanian and a Palestinian) who acted as interpreters as well as my informal ‘cultural tour guides’. With the two interpreters as well as many academics, experts and inspiring activists, I was able to visit four Bedouin communities on multiple occasions and learn about their water management issues, mainly from different women’s points of view. The Bedouin hospitality was incredible and it was inspiring to see how communities who have very little, offer so much to outsiders such as myself. By creating a dialogue about water with the women of these villages, I learned a great deal about land ownership, health, education and modernization issues in these communities. This project was relatively short, lasting only five months, but it is of the hope that future students from AIES and possibly the IWC will continue working with the Bedouin on their water issues with the awareness of the role gender plays in water management.
Although the focus of my time in the Middle East was on my MIWM project, a great deal of the learning experience I obtained arose from the diverse environment I was living in. AIES is located on Kibbutz Ketura, a Jewish community in the south of Israel. On this kibbutz a group of 50 Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and other international students and interns live and study together. Although presence of conflict in the Middle East was apparent, a strong community was built among this international group during my time at AIES. This is what AIES is about, peace building through the commonality of environmental issues under the concept that nature knows no borders. The experience I had at AIES was a capstone to the MIWM program and I am excited and ready to join the field of water professionals!