Najma Khalil Abu Esbaa with her son Bilal during an event to celebrate her achievement. Image Credit: Courtesy: Family

Sharjah: A 74-year-old Palestinian grandmother has proven that age is just a number after earning a doctorate degree in history on Saturday.

Najma Khalil Abu Esbaa, who worked as a teacher for more than 17 years in the UAE, was awarded the mark of high distinction from The Hague University after presenting her thesis entitled ‘The role of Palestinian women in the struggle within the quarter century of the first intifada until 2012.’

The mother of five with 14 grandchildren received her degree after defending her thesis in front of a panel of judges in Sharjah on Saturday where she said age has never prevented her from achieving what she wants.

“The joy of wearing the graduation gown from The Hague University does not match any joy,” she said, adding that she owes her success to her husband and children who encouraged her to continue her academic pursuits.

“I believe education has no time limit or age limit and it is a weapon for every woman,” said Abu Esbaa. While discussing her thesis, she addressed the conditions and obstacles she encountered while collecting factual information about the reality of Palestinian women and, before that, in obtaining a tourist permit. During her visit, she had conducted field meetings with a number of women leaders including women prisoners, relatives of martyrs, and residents in Jordan.

“I couldn’t have achieved my dream without the support of my husband and children in the last five years while preparing the PHD thesis. It made me overcome all the difficulties,” she said, noting that she was involved in teaching her 14 grandchildren during the same time and could only work on her PHD thesis after 11pm.

She added: “I was devastated when I visited my destroyed town of Salma in 2014. I only found ruins and stones, which tells the story of a people who have struggled for decades.”

Members of the judging committee praised the research and survey carried out by Abu Esbaa and the fact that her letter documented women’s struggle for a quarter of a century. They described her research as “historical”, since she spoke on the reality of Palestinian women.

During a small celebration held after Abu Esbaa was conferred her degree, her husband, Dr Abdullah Mustafa, said that he could not describe how proud he was of his wife.

“She is a great mother and wife who gave her children the best means of education, planted in them the highest meaning of life, which is the love of science. She did not allow any barriers to stop her. She is the best example of women struggling in the march of education.”

Abu Esbaa’s eldest daughter, Dr Samar Abdullah, was also unable to hold back tears of joy, saying that her mother’s life is a story of struggle. “She travelled to Yemen in 2000 to defend her master’s thesis, despite demands from her doctor to take a rest after undergoing a serious operation.”

Her son Bilal, an architect, expressed his pride in his mother by wearing traditional Palestinian costume, saying that his mother has been a constant source of inspiration to him and his sisters.