Dr. Kaltham Ali Al-Ghanim
Researcher in the history of Qatar
The Qatari academic field is full of valuable research that plays an important role in changing and developing its society for the better. An example of such an academic is Dr. Kaltham Ali Al-Ghanim, a researcher who has helped preserve Qatar’s history and has contributed to creating positive change in society via her findings, research, and studies. So, Who is Dr. Kaltham?
As a researcher in social sciences, I participate in and conduct several types of research mostly at the community level. Initially, I focused on the social structure, and gradually my research interests became more focused on topics I thought met the community’s needs. Topics such as human development, sustainable development, women empowerment, family issues, cultural change, and identity issues. I also place great focus on the human and social aspects of research, such as topics on youth, population, and migration. In most of my research, I try my best to pick topics that have a possible and applicable solution, so that my research actually benefits the continued development of the country. I first worked at Qatar University in the center of Documentation and Humanities until 1994, then as a member of the social science department until 1995. I later moved on to be the director of Humanities and Social Science at Qatar University in 2014. Through working in committees and handling official tasks, I tried to employ my knowledge and research to support the development efforts and treat existing social challenges. I have also participated in establishing several organizations such as The Supreme Council for Family Affairs, Family Consulting Center, Behavioral Healthcare Center, Social Rehabilitation Center, State Prize for Child Literature, and Qatar Heritage and Identity. I have headed the center of Protection and Social Rehabilitation Centre (2010-2013), and the State Prize for Child Literature (2006-2017), and a member of Qatar Heritage and Identity (2010-2012) and Qatar Social Work Foundation (2013-2016) in which I have managed to become the vice president of this foundation ever since 2017. I have also participated in preparing the strategic manuscripts for many governmental organizations such as the strategy of the Ministry of Culture (2011-2016), the strategy of Qatar Heritage and identity center, Social Rehabilitation, Women Empowerment, Youth strategy, and the strategy of the World Organization for Renaissance of Arabic Language. I was also the editor and the main researcher for the first human development report for Qatar, and have also participated in preparing the second report and provided the sources for the second and third Arabic knowledge reports. I try to use my knowledge to address any social gaps I can identify through my studies, and by raising awareness through seminars aimed to educate both Qatari citizens and residents on these gaps. I have also published twenty articles in scientific journals, and have written three academic books in addition to books on culture and tradition. I have also proposed many scientific papers and presentations at scientific conferences locally and internationally that are specialized in the topics of social issues and development strategies.
What attracted you to the field of Humanities and Social Sciences?
Sociology was not the major I wanted to study when I was applying for an undergraduate degree at Qatar University. Originally, I wanted to study planning and development. Unfortunately, Qatar University was not offering this major at that time and so I decided to major in Sociology, which was a newly established major back then. I did not let this deter me from working on the subject I love, as I started to apply what I learned in my studies to observe the impact of development projects on the social and cultural side. Seeing as we are experiencing rapid changes in society, I was interested in documenting it and exploring its impact on our society, and to reveal its challenges on family, youth, and society.
Could you please talk us through some of the research you have carried out?
I have three research tracks: The first track revolves around social and family relations, specifically examining the dynamics between marriage, moral belief, and the youth. In this track, I also focus on domestic violence in Qatar in which I have carried out four major studies. Three of these studies were sponsored by the former Supreme Council for Family Affairs (a study on violence against women, “domestic violence: qualitative study” and the third study on “violence against married women”). All these studies were carried out on a large-scale survey, with over thousands of samples to study the scope of this phenomenon. The first study that I conducted on this subject was done in 2006 and was later published in 2009. This study involved around 2,700 students from Qatar University, and the results showcased that a significant number of female students have been subjected to violence in their youth by their relatives, or husbands. These results were significant, as they helped the country identify the level of domestic violence that occurs within its borders and how to treat it. It is also due to this research that the country decided to establish the Family Counseling Center. My second track of research revolves around the field of traditional Qatari culture and heritage. Part of my heritage and cultural research includes the pearl diving era, cultural heritage, folklore, and traditional songs (such as songs about eclipses, starsetc.). There is also great research I have done in my youth about the annual celebrations in the Qatari community, the celebration of the season of pearl diving, and the celebration of grinding seasonal grains. My goal here was to record and document these traditions before they disappeared, I worked on it from 1990-1993 and later published it in a book. The documentation of this heritage was important to me because I recognized the value of preserving the cultural oral history for the future. If they were not documented, a part of our heritage would have been lost as these sources naturally disappear with time. Due to the cultural exchanges that have happened over the years, from the neighboring countries, which shape the Qatari culture today, I made sure to document traditional songs that came directly from Qatari women of long Qatari lineage. I also managed to collect seven main traditional legends which express social analysis of certain cultural, religious, and economic symbols such as the legend of “Bint Al-Noketha” (the girl who turned into a fish) and Banat Naash (Daughters of shinning stars). Most of these legends were influenced by the marine environment that people lived in before. I also have research on traditional work songs, but it has not been published yet. It looks into the typical daily life of a Qatari in the past through songs (there are songs about making coffee, camel calling, withdrawing water from a well, etc.) Unfortunately, the new generation is not aware of their oral history and therefore does not know the value of these songs. This heritage must be maintained for future generations. The third track that I am focusing on is literature and story writing. I have written a collection of small stories and have two novels that I have not finished yet which I hope to publish later. I also wrote three children’s stories that are currently published (Ghosoun the sister of the Gazelle; Hamda and Fisaikra; The Brave Turtle).
How did you carry out such research (documentation of traditional songs)?
For my research, I resorted to interviewing elderly women and men (their ages ranging from 65-90 years old) to record the traditional songs, their history, and what they perceive as tradition. Some of these tapes were preserved in the Center of Traditional Culture of the Arabian Gulf State (which no longer exists) and some I have personally preserved. However, due to the mishandling of the recorded tapes, their quality deteriorated but you can still make out the audio. With the help of the National Committee of the National Day Celebration, I managed to salvage the tapes. Now, most of the recordings have been written and saved on a hard drive.
Were the topics that you studied and researched of personal interests or where they carried out due to a sense of duty?
Of course, they were of personal interest to me as I have always been interested in issues revolving around development in the community. I have even presented them at many conferences and published some research papers. I am also proud that it had direct impact on policy modification to address the problems identified in my studies. My aim for the future is to increase the connection between research and practice to improve our society.
What is your advice for women in Qatar?
My advice for young Qatari women is: give more attention to the social and cultural fields of research. More specifically, conduct more studies concerning Qatar’s heritage, and to contribute in conservation and documentation of our culture. The path of creativity is open for you in all fields, you can contribute to the renaissance of your homeland.
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