Although the end of the Hussein regime brought great relief to many women, insecurity and insurgent lawlessness have brought an increase in crimes and violence against women, including rape, honor killings, and kidnappings. A climate of fear continues to limit the movement and activities of many women. Women’s ongoing involvement in Iraq’s reconstruction is critical as the country struggles to move toward stability. Over the past year, there have been numerous organized efforts to promote capacity building of Iraqi women’s nongovernmental organizations while also ensuring women’s empowerment in economic and political arenas on a grassroots level. Approximately 80 women’s groups currently exist in Baghdad, offering a new outlet for dialogue and empowerment.
Women for Women International’s Iraq office served 300 women in 2005, with a total of 1,300 women served since 2003, benefiting an additional 7,800 family and community members. Additionally, Women for Women International has provided NGO training to 15 groups committed to Iraqi women’s empowerment.
Vocational skills training courses are also offered as part of Women for Women International’s programs. Courses currently offered include carpentry, carpet weaving, beadwork, and an introduction to computers.
These programs give women the opportunity to become active participants in the economic reconstruction of their lives, families and communities.
Haifa, an Iraqi woman, could not afford to pay for her family’s medical expenses because her health and age made it impossible for her to continue her previous line of work, which was selling fuel near a gas station. Once she started receiving direct financial aid and business skills training from Women for Women International, she was able to begin work that she could conduct from home. She made a deal with a supplier in a nearby governorate to purchase straw-made sweepers, fans, and baskets at a wholesale price, which she then sells. She has doubled her initial goal and is now regularly able to save the amount of two months rent from the profits.