One year after newly re-elected President Obama announced the official end of the war in Iraq, the country is in a state of turmoil. Operation Iraqi Freedom may officially be over but violence has escalated and women are particularly affected.
40 years ago Iraqi women and men were equal under the law and women enjoyed many rights similar to those of women in the UK today. However, since the early 1990s women have seen their rights curtailed and their participation in all areas of society dramatically inhibited. There has been a sharp decline in female literacy and one year after the Iraq War women are even worse off. Today, the lack of security and policing has led to women being attacked in the streets by people with different political agendas who want to impose veiling, gender segregation and discrimination. Women are finding it more and more difficult to go out alone and, in addition to that, many women suffer violence at the hands of their fathers, brothers and other relatives; particularly those who try to choose how to lead their lives.
Four women who are graduates of Women for Women International’s year-long holistic training programme of life, business and vocational skills recently made a short documentary film to show us in the UK what life is like for Iraqi women one year after the withdrawal of the troops.
“We wanted to make this film because we want our voices to be heard. Iraqi women are strong and they need to know that they have rights and that they can use them to make their lives and those of their families better,” says Nihayet, a graduate of the Women for Women International programme and assistant camera operator.
The film titled “Hands of Hope” explores how women can overcome economic hardship and lead change in their families and communities through access to knowledge and resources.
“Our economic difficulties were the greatest challenge we faced,” says Zainab. “But I was able to overcome them because of what I learned during the Women for Women International programme.”
Zainab, an Iraqi mother of three was facing major economic hardship as her husband’s low wages were barely enough to cover their basic needs. Zainab never had a paid job. The vocational training of the programme allowed Zainab to realize her potential in tailoring and helped build her self worth. Now Zainab has started her own sewing business and is even able to save!
The plight of Iraqi women is serious and ever mounting. Women for Women International is launching an urgent appeal for donations to help these women and their sisters in the seven other countries where we work. Between 25 November and 10 December all donations made to Women for Women International will be matched pound for pound by a generous group of supporters. This means that your gift will benefit twice as many women who are rebuilding their lives after conflict and war.
Go to www.womenforwomen.org.uk