Dr.Chaman Rahim
  • Dr.Chaman Rahim

From a distance I caught the aromas of coriander, cinnamon and something.. freshly fried?

As I awaited, sitting a on a comfy, brown chair, she entered the room with a sunny smile, graciously bearing a tray laden with Arabic coffee, cinnamon rolls, South Asian spicy,coriander chutney to compliment the Arabic samboosas stuffed with Halloumi cheese. It was all lip smacking!

Her unusual combination of trans-global dishes reflected her diverse background and her constant eagerness to challenge the status quo.

Dr. Chaman Rahim is a Bangladeshi-French citizen,an expat,who has lived in Saudi Arabia for 36 years.

She is an educationist, a cultural ambassador, a sports coach, a mentor, and mother to all!

She grew up in Dhaka, Bangldesh. She studied in both Bangladesh and India, completing her first MSc degree in economics in Dhaka. She was then awarded a merit scholarship by the French Government to pursue a second master’s degree in geography at the renowned Paul Valery University, France. She also completed her Phd in urban planning at Paul.

Dr. Chaman immigrated to Saudi Arabia with her family in the 70’s but her family’s association with the Kingdom started long before. "My father served as a British diplomat in Jeddah back in 1946," she said. A friend of hers suggested she visit King Abdul Aziz University located in the city of Jeddah. Initially a private university, it was converted into a state university in1971. In 1975 she began teaching at KAU when there were only a scant handful of female lecturers.

"During my schooling,I enjoyed playing sports!"She says. She was surprised to find zero physical activities available to her female students. Without complaining or arguing, she took matters into her own hands, convincing the vice dean to let her students engage in badminton, tennis, and skating. At a time when even whispering about female sports was considered immoral, Dr. Chaman’s verve and persistence made the impossible, possible.

Her happiness blossomed when the vice dean decided to build an indoor stadium and allocate $13,331 to buy sports equipment,"Oh,in those days, that amount was huge. Not to mention the area of investment: female sports!" she uttered with disbelief. She introduced, encouraged and trained many girls over the years and still continue to do so despite being in her late 50’s

Her position in life is to be a pioneer,to do the extraordinary, the inconceivable for women in her community. Logically her work did not pause with sports. She ventured into other areas where she saw a considerable absence of women - culture and politics. She wanted to offer young women an opportunity to develop diplomatic skills, igniting interest in world politics and culture, inspiring girls to become diplomats or politicians in a country where a patriarchal monarchy is the political system.

Dr. Chaman arranged the first ever Model United Nations Conference in KSA on April 2010 where 30 young women participated.“To convey the concept of MUN and an MUN society was very difficult," she said,"but thank God! It was very successful. I’m very pleased that so many had the opportunity to engage in this unique experience.”

Dr. Chaman is currently a lecturer at Dar-Al-Hekma Women’s Univ. where she teaches sociology, human geography and her own course entitled Muslim Contributions to Civilization. "The course is hugely popular’ she said with eager excitement."Every term the course is over subscribed; students just love it."

She feels students love this course because they feel pride learning about their own history and cultural identity, something they don’t get to explore in more conventional courses. As Muslim women, they feel inspired to fulfill their responsibility to their own and to the global community.

Back in the 80’s she was offered a job at the UN in New York which she declined."My dad wanted me to go but I was very involved with my work and family in this country. I didn’t want to leave my parents. I used to take care of my grandparents as well. "

Her parents were always supportive. "Especially my deceased father,"she said with a sad smile. "He was an easy going and religious man who strongly emphasized on our education. My mother, on the contrary, was more demanding; so we had a good balance in our upbringing. My mom always encouraged us to study and play sports.”

She’s been successful in conveying new ideas but she feels it’s still a challenge,“I want do more!” While she likes to get things done but she’s not a perfectionist."I will modify the methods and try to achieve the same goal in another way. Getting stressed gets you nowhere! I like to meditate and pray if something isn’t working out, but I hardly ever get stressed or moan or groan over something."

She has authored the first series of geography books on Saudi Arabia in English. Currently, she’s working on Heritage of the Hejaz :a book which she hopes will open new perspectives about the culture of the Western Province. She finds Saudi culture remarkably rich and diverse. "Many people are not aware of the wealth of Saudi culture, including Saudis themselves! I have studied a lot about this country and I am thrilled to put it all on paper," she continued.

As I savored the interview, her food and her story – I couldn’t help but wonder which one was the most nutritious; the treats or her narrative! I wasn’t surprised to find students and colleagues flocking around her. As one of her student’s claimed,"She builds castles in the air, literally and figuratively! She exposes a whole new side of us."

Dr.Chaman feels young women of Saudi Arabia should actively try out new things. "You should all be open to exploring new things and not dismiss something because it’s not fashionable. Try to explore yourselves and find out your interests; take cooking classes, play sports, learn languages, learn about your religion. There’s so much to do!’ She advises women to look ahead, to work harder and to show greater honesty and sincerity. "You are the future leaders of our country; you have to do this."

N.B. Dr.Chaman was a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Education and Planning (IIEP) at UNESCO, her research focused on female education in Saudi Arabia (2009), She was also selected for the Islamic Development Bank(IDB) award “Women’s Contribution to Society”. This award shortlists women from 65 countries. She was the only member from SA belonging to a five-member committee to which the award was presented.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2011 Assignment: Profiles.

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Comments

Congratulations hany your work is marvelous and i was already excited to read this lady's profile when you mentioned her in our conversation... She is really a star and a warrior indeed....

Lots of love, Ruun.

Ruun !

Thank you sis ! I was really glad to chat with you about her, I was so happy to explore her further. She is so very positive and persistent in what she does. She's hardly sits in one place! you'll always see her doing things, very motivated all the time. I was able to see her play, and oh my gosh, she seems like professional player !

Good work on your assignment too, I am glad we could bring this wonderful ladies on pulsewire

Gosh i wish i see her in real live and yeah if i ever have the chance to come to SA i will look for her definitely...

Please pass my regards to her and tell her another sister far away from SA is admiring her and her determination.

Warmest regards, Ruun

I like your post. I am finally finding the time to go through what my VOF fellows have been working on. Dr.Chaman is an amazing woman and to hear a story from Saudia Arabia, it is a treat for me. We do not get much of this in the mainstream media at all, which is why the contributors at this platform are all so unique, both in their work and in the work they cover.

Iffat Gill

Thank you for reading my piece, Rose ! Yes, I finally got some time to read each post ! I couldn't even post a draft due to my late interview schedule ;- ) It's so refreshing to read posts from Pakistan, things you never hear or 'half-hear' on news. My mother was born in karachi, so it's always nice to hear stories from PK. I could relate to it .......

I am sure you also get a half picture of women in my country, stories only about black abayas and driving !

Dr. Chaman works really hard to raise girls with big dreams for their society - she very polite and cheerful ! I had so much fun interviewing her ;- )

My well wishes for your next assignment

Thank you Amie ! you post equally inspired me ;- ) ....I will try to bring out more voices from SA ....keep supporting, keep posting, keep sharing sister !

I will hopefully be more active on pulsewire ! your truly a deep, honest voice of the Maldives - women in your country should be proud of you !

Much Love

It is a true delight to read your story posted here! I've learned so much and I feel as if I know Dr. Chaman myself. Your words carry her hospitable grace and strength-of-spirit and inspiration upon the global winds. Wow. Great interviewing. A wonderful story and a powerful testimonial to women's natural leadership :)

Thank you!

Maura

Maura Conlon-McIvor, Ph.D author, founder and social change psychologist legacybeyondborders.com celebrate life/tell your story/live your heart's legacy mauraconlon.com

Wow! What an incredible woman!

And your writing style is just beautiful, Farona. You made my mouth water and drew me into your narrative with the first few sentences of this write up. You have certainly done Dr. Rahim justice with your words. Thanks for sharing this lovely article.

SLaw

Thanks you so much Slaw !

I am just only learning to express myself ! I am glad you liked the narrative, given that I was never good at describing in my writing ; - ) ......Some day we VOF will meet together and have some Arabic Coffee and sambosas with chutney, okay ? Keep reminding me !

Dr.Chaman is a really a global citizen, not a hint of biased attitude, she brings various exapt communities together and just dance with them ! she has so much to her personality! 1000 words is not enough to describe her work ;- )

Good luck for your next assignment ;- ) hopefully I will be able to post a draft next time. For this module I couldn't as I wasn't able to interview her on the prescribed time. I was editing the piece just few hours before the deadline ! yikesss

Dear Farona,

I love your writing style! Right away, with your descriptive intro, my senses were pulled into the story of Dr. Chaman Rahim's life as a women leader and activist. I loved learning about her past, her work, and her encouragement for young women to develop their interests, passions and education.

I am looking forward to reading more of your assignments!

Love, Jade

Jade ;- )

Thank you for reading my piece and your wonderful response - much appreciated ;- ) I was struck my Chaman's generosity and I wanted to highlight that on my piece. She's an energetic women, with a clear vision, she has more energy and optimism than a 15 year old ! I was just amazed...... I love the message she gave to young women of this country, these various young women come from rich households with very little exposure to societal problems, or more or less exposure anything - many girls rarely cared about more than their shopping and their smart phones! Dr.chaman instills a level of social conscience in them, many of her students went on opening various social enterprises instead of just inheriting their fathers business, which is usually the case.

I was never good at writing description essays at school ! my lecturers always warned me against choosing type of essays that requires a vivid description. In a 25 mark essay I would always end up getting 9/10 if I wrote description based essays ! ouch....

Writing on pulsewire is an amazing opportunity to challenge yourself as a writer, a story teller and I am absolutely joyed to take this opportunity and advance further.

I look forward to explore myself in the upcoming assignments, looking forward to your support !

Dear Farona,

Thank you so much for sharing. Rahim is in fact a very cheerful and open-minded woman with strong, important visions. I love the quote in which she says, "You should all be open to exploring new things and not dismiss something because it’s not fashionable. Try to explore yourselves and find out your interests; take cooking classes, play sports, learn languages, learn about your religion. There’s so much to do!’ This is what we should do. In fact, there are lots of things we can do in this world; we are never left without anything to do. She is a great activist who does several activities at the same time. I am really happy to hear the new stories of the courageous, brilliant women through you all my fellows.

My best wishes for you,

Mursal

Mursal dear <3

Thank for reading my post - much appreciated ;- )

She is infact, very cheerful and very open to exploration. I love that quote too ! it's so useful for young women in any country. Here in SA, many women complain to due lack of activities available for them. And Dr. Chaman gracefully gives them a thoughtful advice.

I am stunned to read about your profile women, too ! what a wonderful opportunity for us to highlight women of passion in our communities !

My best wishes

As I was reading through, I kept wanting to know more and more about Dr. Chaman. She has and continues to do incredible work. Her commitment is soo true and genuine and energetic! Beautiful piece. =)

Blog: Threads of Our Fabric Project

It is such a joy to read the responses from your VOF sisters! You clearly made a well appreciated, articulate and inspirational contribution to this incredible dialog. Yea!!! You have the ears and hearts of a global network of women... and that's just the beginning. I'm SO proud of you and so happy to be a humble part of this amazing process. Please, please, tell Dr. C. profound thanks with love and admiration. You truly are a voice of the future! In fact, you are a powerful voice of right this very minute! Roses, roses for you.

I am equally humbled to be a part of it! Every member of VOF are the voices of future, behind us is supportive group of intelligent and compassionate 'voices'......and they are hint hint ....Our MENTORS !!! Yipeeeee <3

Farona - Thank you so very much for sharing such an awesome role model in your country with us all!

Your writing paints such a beautiful picture of Dr. Rahim's passion for challenging the status quo and her deep desire to enhance women's lives through her many years of activism. What a gift she has paved for the women in your country. Now, the baton passes to you, and others like you!!

Thank you so much Dear Beth ;-) I am genuinely humbled to bring her story on WP, and to know that Global Woman find her inspiring as I do ....She is indeed passing the baton to other young woman !

With Love and Gratitude

Thanks Farona to bring up such a role model !

Sincerely

Sahar Nuraddin

follow me @snuraddin

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." - Helen Keller

Farhaa, what a beautiful profile! You've really brought her to life here... I can smell the delicious coffee and taste the sambusas, and I can feel a connection with Chaman. Great work!

Do you plan on sharing this link with her? I'm sure she would be flattered and honored by your work here! I really was impressed by your work, and feel glad to know this woman is inspiring a new generation of young women leaders like yourself.

Happy New Year! Scott

Scott Beck

Thank you, Scott! Much appreciated ;- )

I genuinely enjoyed interviewing her and tried my best to translate that enjoyment into my piece. I was really stunned by her positive energy, (I could actually light up a whole room with her energy)!!! ..She’s a balanced activist, a lot of women tend to devote themselves so much to their activism and find it difficult to relax/enjoy but she seems to be someone who has learned to find that unique balance.

I did it share this link with her right away! She actually wrote me the same thing you wrote! – flattered and honored LOL

P.S I regretted having a cold-quick-cereal that morning!

Hello Farona, Just wanted to say I think your writing beautifully conveys the essence of Dr Chaman and I think the way you described the smells and the food worked perfectly. She sounds like a very inspiring woman and it came through in your piece just how much she touched you. Well done with this piece, I look forward to reading more.

Yours, Julie

@julietomlin

I appreciate your remarks! Thank you for reading. She is indeed inspiring, and she does inspire a lot of young woman, regardless of their background. She uses all her skills, including her multi-lingual skills to connect one with other. Because of her energy and passion, women forget their differences and work together, which is something really hard to accomplish. I am glad you felt her essence !

Kindly Farona