Shelters for Women in Iraq

by MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Org.
Shelters for Women in Iraq
OWFI members celebrating their win.
OWFI members celebrating their win.

Last January, the Iraqi government filed a lawsuit to crumble the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), a longtime MADRE partner who provides crucial protection for women escaping violence and discrimination. But OWFI prevailed! After a long legal attack on OWFI’s brave truth-telling and life-saving work for Iraqi women and girls, a judge recently dismissed all claims against them. 

We are proud to continue uplifting OWFI’s work to provide essential protection to women and girls, including operating a nationwide network of shelters and safe houses for women currently deemed illegal in Iraq. This network, for example, was a vital source of support for women and girls targeted for rape and sexual slavery by ISIS. OWFI stepped up, mobilizing to provide care, counseling, and shelter for survivors and those at-risk of ISIS violence. Their work continues to be recognized and applauded by local judges and authorities across the country — for the very same work that their government attacked.

MADRE’s team of legal experts helped support OWFI through this long legal battle, demonstrating our steadfast support for partners through thick and thin.

OWFI’s victory is a testament to their crucial work and dedicated commitment to advancing women and girls’ rights in Iraq. Thanks to your support, OWFI can continue their efforts to safeguard what may be the only path to safety for women and girls escaping honor killings, domestic violence, and sexual abuse, ensuring that everyone receives the care and support they need to heal and thrive.

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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

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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Organization Information

MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Org.

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @madrespeaks
Project Leader:
Yifat Susskind
New York, NY United States
$12,962 raised of $15,000 goal
302 donations
$2,038 to go
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