Shelters for Women in Iraq and Afghanistan

by MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Org.

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.

We just received breaking news from our partners in Afghanistan, who work with the Afghan Women’s Survival Fund to provide shelter, safe transportation and support to Afghan women fleeing violence.

Recently, a young woman made headlines by running away from home with her fiancé. As she remained in hiding, her family members publicly expressed their outrage; convinced that she tarnished her family name by running away. They threatened her with “honor killing” as punishment for her actions.

With nowhere else to turn, she contacted MADRE and our partners at the Afghan Women’s Survival Fund. Together, we are providing her with the support necessary to escape to safety and begin rebuilding her life.

The Afghan Women’s Survival Fund provides cell phones to link partners in the rescue network, and covers costs of emergency medical care, food, shelter, local and international transportation, and clothing and other personal effects for women who are forced to escape quickly.

Through the Fund, MADRE is able to activate a global network of women’s human rights defenders to launch advocacy campaigns on behalf of women who are publicly threatened with violence.

Often, the only thing standing between a woman and her husband or family’s violent retaliation for running away is a shelter. Your continued support is crucial to provide a safe haven for women and brings us a step closer to ending violence against women.

 The shelters and halfway homes are the cornerstone of the social change sought by MADRE; the micro-society we support perpetuates the rights of women to freedom of choice in social life, love, and bodily integrity. We are currently maintaining one main shelter in the center of Baghdad, two activists’ houses which serve as temporary shelters, and an ever-growing number of halfway houses in “hot zones.” Up to date, more than 64 women have been aided by these shelters, 6 staff members were involved, and 11 households were educated on re-sheltering practices. Furthermore, the network has expanded and has 3-4 households ready as standby shelters. Not only are women kept safe in these shelters, but also women have opportunities to learn computer literacy and the principles of human rights.


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Organization Information

MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Org.

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Yifat Susskind
New York, New York United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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