When women threatened with violence arrive at OWFI’s shelters, they know that they will receive comprehensive care. From providing shelter, to emergency health care, to legal assistance, OWFI and MADRE are working tirelessly to meet the needs of survivors of gender-based violence and empower Iraqi women to defend their rights.
We’d like to share updates with you now on our hard work in seeking justice for women threatened with violence:
Currently, OWFI is assisting two women in mounting legal cases against the men who abused them. One woman was severely beaten by her husband. The other was raped by her brother. With MADRE’s support and with OWFI’s assistance, these women filed complaints of these violations and saw their cases moved to trial. OWFI’s relationship with members of the social police, the department of the Iraqi police force tasked with dealing with social issues, ensured that police officers supported and cooperated with the women as they filed their claims, and were present to protect them when their cases went to trial.
What’s more, in the past few months alone, MADRE support allowed OWFI to provide seven women at their shelters with counseling to help them recover from the trauma of living in violence and fear, a first step to helping these women reclaim their lives. Additionally, OWFI helped six women at the shelters receive lifesaving medical care.
OWFI and MADRE continue to offer women threatened with violence the means and social support to escape danger and begin to build a new life. When asked if they felt safer at OWFI shelters, one resident stated, “I can breathe, no one is trying to kill me in this house. Yes, I’m safe.”
Thank you for supporting this crucial, lifesaving work!
We recently received news from Yanar Mohammad, director of our partner organization OWFI. Since our last update, she informed us that the shelters have been working quite well. They continue to provide essential services to many women who are at risk, fleeing violent situations at home or trying to escape a life of prostitution and trafficking.
OWFI’s staff members are working hard to provide a safe space for the women and to help them rebuild their lives. Medical and counseling services are essential to the shelter residents’ well-being. The shelter staff accompanies the residents to hospital visits, and maintains a 24-hour hotline to provide counseling and services to people in danger or crisis. The staff members go far and beyond to guarantee that they can provide emergency assistance when it is necessary. Medical care and counseling have contributed to an improved physical and emotional quality of life for many shelter residents.
Residents at the OWFI shelters have the opportunity to regularly engage and share their experiences with people who have lived through similar circumstances. Friendships, understanding, and acceptance develop amongst shelter residents, who come to love and protect one another, to build a coalition and to create an environment of tolerance around one another. Residents emerge from their time with OWFI as activists rather than victims.
There are many positive stories coming out of the OWFI shelters. Two former shelter residents who came to OWFI in 2007 to escape prostitution have returned to help OWFI gather information about women in need in Baghdad brothels. They have assumed new roles as outreach officers, creating a link between the women trapped in the sex-industry and OWFI. More recently, a woman who stayed at the shelter for more than a year has now found a job and is building a new, financially independent life for herself.
OWFI remains in regular contact with her, and other residents who transition out of their shelters, to make sure they are well.
Giti’s midwife learned that Giti’s husband by an arranged marriage had raped her several times a day, demanding that she produce a son. When Giti became pregnant, her husband threatened to kill her and the baby if a daughter was born.
Before delivery, the midwife alerted MADRE to activate the Afghan Women’s Survival Fund. With our support, the underground escape network sprang into action. Moments after the girl was born, a male activist waiting nearby in a car whisked Giti away to a nearby safe house. This heroic driver risked his life by posing as Giti’s male relative (it’s required by custom that a woman only be in a car with a male who is a relative) as well as by aiding in her escape.
MADRE members were right there with them as they made their way to freedom. Your gifts provided fuel for the car, medical help, clothing, diapers and necessities for the baby, cell phones, funds for safe emergency housing and so many other costs needed to coordinate covert escape.
MADRE also helped Giti’s baby come into the world safely through our support of “safe birth” medical kits containing basic supplies that our midwife partners urgently need. Afghan maternal mortality rates are the second highest in the world!
The good news is that Giti and her baby girl are now living in a safe place in the capital city of Kabul. Our partners will see that she and her baby have the means to start a new life. We want all our stories to end this well.
Last Friday we received great news from our sisters in Iraq!
We at MADRE had the chance to speak to Yanar Mohammed from our partner organization, Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), who wanted to tell us about the opening of a new shelter in Baghdad.
Yanar let us know that OWFI officially opened the shelter about 3 weeks ago. We took a virtual live tour through the shelter, where three Iraqi women are currently taking refuge. The new shelter has two floors with four bedrooms and can host up to ten women looking for help to escape violence.
The coordinator of the shelter is part of the OWFI network, and she herself found refuge through OWFI in a shelter a few years ago. She has been empowered by that experience, and today she is managing and providing services for other women in desperate situations.
We learned from Yanar that other shelters throughout Iraq are up and running and continue to save the lives of many women. We're more dedicated than ever to work with OWFI to provide women threatened by violence with the support necessary to escape to safety and begin rebuilding their lives.
As a teenaged girl, Aya lost both of her parents to the Iraq war. Orphaned and alone, she sought refuge with a local family. Instead, she was subject to years of excruciating abuse at the hands of her adopted parents.
Now, Aya refuses to be silent. She has lived in OWFI’s shelter for a year, and regularly attends political awareness and empowerment meetings. Even though she was detained and tortured by intelligence officials for being a vocal activist for Iraqi women’s human rights, Aya has not swayed in her conviction. She continues to advocate for just policies for women and the exposure of human rights violations. Aya’s courageous journey from survivor of abuse to political activists inspires us all.
MADRE works with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), to meet the urgent needs of survivors of gender-based violence; offering women threatened with violence the means and social support to escape danger and begin to build a new life.
Currently, OWFI maintains three MADRE-supported critical shelters for women targeted for honor killing, survivors of domestic violence, runaways from forced prostitution rings and more. Since 2009, the shelters have served as safe haven for over 60 women fleeing violence and oppression.
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