Living under ISIS control and suffering from trauma, Sonia* turned to one of the women’s centers created by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq’s (OWFI). There, she received psychosocial support to aid her recovery as well as English and sewing classes to help her create a brighter future for herself. After completing her courses, OWFI connected Sonia with folks at a clothing factory where she was hired as a tailor! Thanks to your support, Sonia had the space to process her trauma, recover, and build new skills. She wanted us to share with you that her energy has been reignited and she’s hopeful for the future. Thank you for making this life-changing work possible!
*Name has been changed to respect the privacy of the individual
As the pandemic continues to spread, our partners must continually adapt their work to keep their communities safe and our partner, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) is no exception. Throughout the pandemic, OWFI has worked hard to provide safe spaces for women and girls seeking shelter. And they’ve done everything they can to ensure those shelters are healthy places to be, stocking them with hygiene materials and protective equipment.
A critical aspect of OWFI’s services is offering holistic empowerment services for women, but gathering for those services, such as mentorship sessions or trainings, has become impossible due to COVID. That’s where you came in.
Thanks to your help, MADRE was able to increase OWFI’s ability to connect with local women by supporting a secure Zoom account for their use. Now, OWFI can safely organize empowerment sessions and one-on-one mentorship sessions -- services that are even more vital during such stressful and uncertain times. Thank you for making this simple, yet vital service available to our partners -- we’re so grateful to have you standing with us!
As has been widely reported, domestic violence has spiked dramatically during the pandemic. In places like Iraq where a curfew has been imposed, it’s even more dangerous for women and girls in search of safety to move about the country. Our partner, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), has quickly adapted their efforts to meet women’s immediate needs. Working alongside MADRE and in combination with your ongoing support, OWFI has enacted a holistic approach to keep women and girls safe.
OWFI is keeping as many shelters open as possible to provide safe spaces. And thanks to you, shelters are stocked with food, hygiene materials and protective equipment to keep women safe and healthy. OWFI’s reach goes even further by raising awareness on how to prevent and redress domestic violence via radio programming and their own newspaper. Thank you for making this life-saving work possible: your support is critical throughout the year, but especially crucial during a pandemic.
Saraya was eight years old when she was sexually assaulted by her uncle. She was living in a dismal displacement camp with her family when one day she was left in their tent alone — until her uncle arrived. He threatened to kill her or turn her over to ISIS if she told anyone. Filled with fear, Saraya kept quiet for several days. But it was too traumatizing for her to hold it in any longer. Saraya found her courage and told her mother what happened.
A local activist heard about Saraya’s assault and notified our partner, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). OWFI lit a light in the darkness and jumped into action. They sent Saraya to a health center so she could get the treatment she needed. She also had legal aid throughout the entire case — and all of this was at no cost to Saraya’s family thanks to your support.
The uncle’s family tried to pressure Saraya’s family. They offered money and promises to marry Saraya off to a community member when she grew up, but her parents wanted Saraya to gain full access to her rights through court. When OWFI heard about this they intervened and made sure Saraya’s family didn’t accept anything but justice for what had happened to their daughter.
After a long court battle, Saraya’s lawyers won. Her uncle was sentenced to life imprisonment. Thanks to OWFI’s support — and yours — Saraya is safe with her family. Thank you for lighting the way to safety and making this life-changing work like this possible.
Sisters-in-law Hadia* and Amira were displaced from their home for four years after ISIS took over their village. They ended up at a displacement camp -- often a dangerous place for women. While there, Hadia and Amira were both sexually assaulted.
After their village was liberated from ISIS control, they returned home. Soon after, Hadia’s husband (Amira’s brother) found out about the sexual assault and became furious. He beat them with a heavy electricity cable, claiming “death will clean the shame you brought to our family.”
Hadia and Amira fled to their neighbor’s home and thereafter approached the village leader. When they told the leader that they were innocent and had done nothing wrong, he turned to local police for help. The police, in turn, sought help from our partner, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI).
Because Hadia’s brother and his cousins were searching for the women, OWFI staff met with Hadia and Amira in secret. Together OWFI, the village leader and police captain agreed that the women needed to leave the village for their safety. But men often hold onto identification documents for women in their family, and without identification, Amira and Hadia could not travel. Because of your support and that of others like you, OWFI was able to obtain temporary identification, allowing the women to relocate to a remote village where they could remain safely with a relative.
OWFI’s help left Hadia and Amira overwhelmed with gratitude. They said, “We were 15 minutes away from death. Every minute, every hour, and every day we live is because of you. Thanks for taking such a huge risk doing humanitarian work.”
OWFI’s actions also succeeded in opening the eyes of the village leader. He said, “You have changed my mind about human rights organizations. I thought they could only provide a little food and water and then leave, but you rescue people from death. I asked several organizations before you for help, but when I tell them I have a case of an honor killing they say, ‘We can’t deal with this case.’ You all are brave.”
Thank you for supporting our brave partner OWFI and their lifesaving work. We’re inspired by them every day, and we hope you are too!
*Names have been changed to respect the privacy of individuals.
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