Welcome at RHEA

RHEA, the Centre of Expertise Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)aims to contribute to knowledge generation on gender, diversity and intersectionality, through scientific and interdisciplinary research and education. RHEA is an interfaculty research group headed by Gily Coene (director) and Karen Celis (co-director). RHEA offers a platform for researchers from across the university. It plays an important role in advising policy makers at the university and in the political world, offering expertise on equal opportunity and diversity policy.

New RHEA premises

At the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year RHEA entered a new phase with substantial university recognition of its role as Centre of expertise and of scientific research on gender and diversity. RHEA moved to new premises on the fifth floor at Pleinlaan 5. You can contact us via email, phone (+32-(0)2-6148230), or visit us at Pleinlaan 5, fifth floor (preferably by appointment).


All RHEA courses

Advice and policy

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About Rhea

More about us
Sophie Withaeckx

+32 2 614 82 30


About RHEA

RHEA, Centre of Expertise on Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality. RHEA is a multidisciplinary and inter-faculty research group, under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Gily Coene and Prof Dr Karen Celis. This centre of expertise is the successor of RHEA, Centre for Gender and Diversity.

In 1987, the Centre for Women’s Studies was created at the VUB; it was the first university women’s studies centre in Flanders. It was created following the commitment of some female members of the academic personnel, to eliminate the societal discrimination of women. Prof Em. Lydia De Pauw-Deveen was the first president. Prof Dr M. De Metsenaere succeeded her and Prof Dr A. Woodward was vice-president. RHEA has a broad interdisciplinary research and education tradition and acted for many years, as a platform and meeting venue for policy makers, societal organisations, researchers, doctoral students and students, that focused on women’s and gender studies and diversity.

On October 1 2014, the new RHEA Centre of Expertise started, with the support of the VUB-Research Council. The Centre aims at conducting research and providing education with regard to gender, diversity and intersectionality; to advise and support policy makers and societal stakeholders, and to provide an academic platform for VUB researchers who have an interest and expertise in gender, diversity and intersectionality. The centre of expertise:  

  • Performs fundamental and applied research on gender, diversity and intersectionality in various disciplines;
  • Offers specialised and integrated education related to gender, diversity, in bachelor, master and doctoral education;
  • Provides internal and external advice on equal opportunities and diversity policy;
  • Offers a platform for academic personnel from various VUB departments and faculties, who integrate gender, diversity and intersectionality in their research and education.

RHEA Education

For more than 20 years, RHEA has pioneered education on gender and diversity in Flanders.

Introduction to Women's/Gender Studies

Lecture 2nd semester. Optional module for the faculties of Law & Criminology, Economic and Social Sciences & Solvay Business School, Arts & Philosophy, and Psychology and Education.

More on this course

Interuniversity Master Gender and Diversity

As of the academic year 2014-2015, students with an academic bachelor in human or social sciences, can subscribe to a new interuniversity masters Gender and Diversity. The Master is also open for masters from any discipline who wish to specialise in genderstudies, as an interdisciplinary master following a master. This interuniversity Master Gender and Diversity is a joint initiative of the five Flemish universities:  KULeuven, UAntwerpen, UGent, UHasselt and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and is provided as a one year programme (60 ECTS credits).

More on this programme (only in Dutch)

Interuniversity Gender Research Seminar

This interuniversity and interdisciplinary seminar offers PhD students from the Doctoral Schools of Human Sciences and other faculties from VUB, Ugent, UA, KUL, and UHasselt, an opportunity to attend lectures from renowned scholars and to discuss their PhD research. The focus of the seminar changes every year. The two former seminars discussed Concepts, Theories and Methodologies in Gender Studies and Feminist Methodologies. The University of Antwerp will organise the following seminar on May 21 and 22 2015. For more information: Prof Petra Debusscher or Petra Meier.

Advice and Policy

RHEA contributes to scientific debate and policy at various levels regarding equal opportunities and diversity as a participant in governing bodies and working groups. Click here for more information on the VUB Gender Action Plan and other initiatives.

Gender Action Plan (GAP)

RHEA is involved in the Gender Action Plan. With this GAP, th VUB commits to strive for a gender balance in its functioning. Click the link below to discover the eight priorities of the GAP.

The Gender Action Plan (only in Dutch)

Working Group on Equal Opportunities

RHEA is involved in the Working Group on Equal Opportunities of the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR). This group strives for an inclusive equal opportunities and diversity policy for both students and staff.

The Working Group on Equal Opportunities

RHEA Research

RHEA aims to generate fundamental knowledge and expertise regarding gender, diversity and intersectionality. Click here for more information on research projects, doctorates and other scientific activities.

Current research

Gendering Ethnicity and Gender in Ethnicizing Politics & Policy

The Strategic Research Programme Gendering Ethnicity and Ethnicizing Gender in Politics & Policy investigates how and why the interaction between gender and ethnicity influences democratic quality, inclusiveness and effectivity to establish equality. Click here for more information.

Intersectional analysis and approach of ‘harmful cultural practices’

This research concerns the relevance and meaning of the intersectionality perspective for the analysis and approach of issues such as female genital mutilation, child/early and forced marriages and honour related violence.

Harmful Cultural Practices. A critical analysis of cross-cultural discourses and moral understandings of gender, sexuality and embodiment

This FWO research project will start in 2015 in collaboration with Ghent University. It investigates the analytical relevance of the concept ‘harmful cultural practice’ and the moral and cultural conceptualization of women in a migration context related to gender, sexuality and corporeality. Click here for more information.


‘Gender, Health and Family Issues’ is part of the Desafio-project, VLIR-UOS-programme in collaboration with Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique. The project aims to improve reproductive health and to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Mozambique. Click here for more information.


Honour, gender and violence in a context of migration

RHEA member Sophie Withaeckx successfully defended  her PhD on September 17 2014. Her thesis entitled ‘Honour, gender and violence in a context of migration. An empirical-ethical research on meanings and experiences of honour and honour related violence, with Flanders as a case-study’, contributes to the scientific theory building on multiculturality, diversity and gender related violence (Promotor: Prof Dr Gily Coene – Copromotor: Prof Dr Els Leye). Copies of the thesis can obtained from Sophie Withaeckx.

Marital dynamics in family planning

On November 7 2014, Tizta Tilahun Degfie defended her doctoral thesis entitled 'Marital dynamics in family planning: the role of couple interaction in Jimma Zone, Southwest Ethiopia', at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the Ghent University (Promotor: Prof. Dr. Olivier Degomme, Co-Promotor: Prof. Dr. Gily Coene).

Ongoing doctoral research projects

  • Sabah Ikmeyes
  • Rehana Capurchande
  • Carlos Cuinhane
  • Soumia Akachar
  • Serena D’Agostino
  • Atefeh Sadeghi


  • Van de liefde geslagen. Nieuwe vormen van familiaal geweld feministisch bekeken [Hit by Love: New forms of family violence in feminist perspective (only available in Dutch)] is the record of a study day in 2011 sponsored by RHEA and the VUB Chair for Humanistics as part of its yearly Twee-spraak Vrouwenstudies lecture series.
  • Karen Celis is the co-editor of the book Gender, Conservatism and Political Representation. The book asks how Conservative politicians contribute to the political representation of women. Chapters focus on the participation of women in conservative organisations and parties as members, candidates, leaders, representatives and ministers not only in Europe, but in the US, Argentina, Australia, New Zeeland, Japan, Turkey and Morocco. Their contribution to the representation of women and their relation to other conservative women is weighed and assessed.
  • Eva Schandevyl is the editor of the collection Women in Law and Lawmaking in Nineteenth and Twentieth century Europe (Ashgate 2014). The book explores the relation between gender and law making and the feminization of justice, considering the historical beginnnings and the impact of gendered constructions on jurisprudence.