Women and Gender Studies Concentration

Combining research, teaching, and activism focusing on the intersections among gender, sexuality, race and class.

Marzia Nawrozi, 2018

Marzia Nawrozi

Marzia will graduate this week with a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. We are extremely proud of Marzia. This is her story. 


How did you decide on the MAIS with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies program? What courses did you enjoy? What were some of your research projects/topics?   What was the topic of your final capstone paper/project?

Growing up in Afghanistan during the war, I dedicated my life to help women and girls since I was seven years old. I was not allowed to go to school for six years when the Taliban was in power. I decided to study MAIS with a concentration in Women and Gender studies because I felt the program could educate me about women and gender issues and help me find my path and start my journey.  

“Women and Global Issues” was the first course that I took as a graduate student of the MAIS. It was a very eye-opening class and I learned about problems that women and girls face in other parts of the world. The class was very diverse and students shared their firsthand experiences from different parts of the world that they grew up in. Taking classes with Dr. Rachel Lewis taught me about LGBTQ issues and a lot about feminism and their critiques on issues such as gender and imperialism. Moreover, Dr. Angie Hattery’s class taught me about research methods, critical thinking, and writing. Lastly, I took Dr. Nancy Hanrahan’s Feminist Theory and found it to be very enjoyable.

Aside from Women and Gender Studies courses, I took courses in international relations, social justice, and human rights. One course that was very useful was “Gender and Violence” with the Conflict Resolution Department. Although it was a tough class where we talked about issues that women face in war zones such as injuries, discrimination, and rape, I gained valuable knowledge on solutions on how to help women facing such hardships. As one of the most interesting projects I did for this class, I taught students how to make sanitary napkins and led a discussion about the struggles that women and girls faced during their menstruation in war zones and developing countries. Unfortunately, many women and girls in war zones, refugee camps, and many other developing countries do not have access to sanitary napkins.

For my final research project to fulfill the MAIS program, I wrote an auto-ethnography about the power of storytelling in bringing positive changes to Afghan women’s lives. By incorporating the stories of myself and my mother, I told stories of thousands of Afghan women whose voices have been silenced.


What have you learned that has really surprised you/changed your perspective?

Hearing from other students in my classes changed my perspective in many ways. My most favorite part of studying at Mason was diversity and respect. I loved and enjoyed my classes because I was allowed to be myself. In addition, my professors made classes very comfortable which made hearing, listening and learning from each other without judging one another very easy.


Tell us about your dream job. How has courses in Women and Gender Studies helped further your plans?

Although I had been already working with the Feminist Majority Foundation when I started the MAIS program, I have learned so much more through researching, writing and thinking academically. Women and Gender Studies taught me the issues and struggle that women and girls face in all parts of the world. My dream job is to join the United Nations and work in Afghanistan.


Please share any internships, jobs, or volunteer experiences that you have taken part in during your time at Mason?

I work with the Feminist Majority Foundation as an advocate for the rights of Afghan women and girls. I participate in many of our campaigns and lobbying. I have met many influential and strong women.


Please share any accomplishments or opportunities that you are proud of.

I have published stories, blogs and poems to Ms. Magazine, Afghan Women’s Writing Project, Free Women’s Writers and many other publications outside and inside of Afghanistan.

For my family’s safety, I had to publish my writings anonymously from time to time.


Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.

I am a storyteller and adventurer. I was only fifteen when I convinced my family to let me travel to the United States as an exchange student. 


Any additional information you would like to share about your time with Women and Gender Studies?

I am very glad that I made this decision to study Women and Gender Studies. I enjoyed every second of it and felt very much at home. The Women and Gender Studies Center was always warm and welcoming.


Women and Gender Studies wish Marzia a great journey ahead as she starts a new chapter. 

You can connect with Marzia Nawrozi on twitter: @marzia_nosrat