Office of International Women's Issues
January 9, 2004
U.S. Commitment to Women in Iraq
Iraqi women greeted the capture of Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003 with
joyful relief. As one woman reported from an Iraqi women's conference taking
place in Amman, Jordan, "Almost all broke into tears and sobs that the man who
had managed to reach into each individual's personal life and rip it apart by
killing their husbands, sons and fathers -- raping and maiming their women --
was brought to justice."
The United States is working with women in Iraq on programs that will broaden
their political and economic opportunities and increase women's and girls'
access to education and health care. In early 2003, the United States committed
approximately $2.5 billion in humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Iraq. In
November 2003, Congress approved President Bush's request for an additional
$18.7 billion over the coming 18 months. Some of these funds will be used to
restore Iraq's infrastructure, while other portions are allotted to democracy
building, economic development, employment, medical, and educational needs, with
full attention to the equal participation of women.
Political Participation and Civil Society
Women and the New Iraqi Fundamental Law. In November 2003, the Coalition
Provisional Authority (CPA) and the Iraqi Governing Council agreed to a process
to restore Iraq's sovereignty, beginning with a fundamental law leading to a
permanent constitution. They agreed that a bill of rights would ensure equal
rights for all Iraqis regardless of gender, sect, and ethnicity. While the
United States was disappointed that no women were appointed to the initial
preparatory committee for drafting a constitution, we are strongly encouraging
Iraqis to ensure that women and women's rights are included in all facets of
Iraq's political transition.
Iraqi Women in Governing, Local and Municipal Councils. With strong U.S.
support, the Iraqi Governing Council, created in July 2003, included 3 women
among its 25 members. The September 2003 assassination of Dr. Akila Al-Hashimi
has not deterred others, such as Salimah Al-Khaffagi who has assumed Al-Hashimi's
post and Nasreen Sideek Barwari who holds a key Cabinet portfolio as Minister of
Public Works. Rend Rahim has been appointed as Principal Representative of Iraq
to the United States. Six out of the 37 members of the Baghdad City Council are
women, over 80 women serve on neighborhood and district councils around the
capital, and many others have been elected to district, local and municipal
councils in other regions. The United States continues to encourage greater
representation for women in Iraq's political institutions.
Political Workshops for Women. In late October 2003, hundreds of women activists
attended a conference in Sulaimaniyah to establish a national women's umbrella
organization that will serve as an overall clearinghouse, watchdog and advocacy
group. Over 200 women community leaders participated in the Heartland of Iraq
Women's Conference, in October 2003, at the University of Babylon in Hillah. In
July 2003, Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky traveled to Baghdad to take part in
The Voice of Women in Iraq Conference, co-hosted by the CPA. More than 70 Iraqi
Women's Centers. The CPA is working with local women's groups to establish nine
centers for women in Baghdad to provide educational programs, job skills
training, rights awareness seminars, and mentoring programs. The newly renovated
Fatima Zahra Women's Center in Hillah offers job skills training, financial
skills, abuse prevention and safety, legal services, and political organization.
The United States is also renovating women's centers in Karbala, Najaf, Al Kut,
Diwaniyah, and Sulaimaniyah.
Women Security Officers. Nearly 100 women have joined the police, prison guard
and security forces. The CPA is developing new programs, including one aimed at
recruiting more women to work as private security guards.
Media Training. The United States supports an Iraqi Women's Oral History
Project. The project trains Iraqi women journalists in video-documentary
techniques, the collection of oral histories from eyewitnesses and survivors of
atrocities against women by the Saddam regime, and the production of a 50-minute
Job Skills. The United States supports a number of women's job training
projects. For example, the Women's Forum in Baghdad provides courses in health
care, computer skills, dress making, and eventually, a public library and
Integration Into the Global Economic Community. The United States sponsored a
delegation of Iraqi women leaders to the Global Women's Summit held in Marrakesh,
Morocco in June 2003, and plans to include Iraqi women in the Partnership for
Learning conference in Istanbul in early 2004.
Organizations and Associations. The United States has given $6.5 million to
local women's groups, including non-governmental, community and professional
organizations. One example is the New Horizons of Iraq, a businesswomen's group,
which meets weekly at the Baghdad Community Center.
Vaccinations and Nutrition. The United States, supported by the Iraqi
Ministry of Health and UNICEF, has spent almost $5 million for 30 million doses
of vaccines for children and pregnant women since July 2003. A $2 million
nutrition program has ensured that more than 100,000 pregnant women and nursing
mothers and malnourished children under 5 years of age have received high
Training of Nurses and Midwives. A grant to the Iraqi Nursing Association will
support the recruitment and training of hundreds more women nurses and the
purchase of new uniforms, bed linens and nurses' kits. Currently, there are only
300 trained and licensed women nurses in Iraq.
Schools. The United States has renovated more than 1,993
schools, enabling approximately 5.1 million students to resume their education
in October 2003. Five million books are being printed and distributed.
Approximately 1.5 million Student Kits, 140,000 Teacher Kits, and over 10,100
Schools in a Box that include furniture and classroom equipment have been
Teacher Training. Four hundred primary and secondary school teachers have
already received the Master Teacher Trainer certification, with another 800 to
follow in the short-term, and tens of thousands over the long-term.
Babylon University Dorms. The United States is providing $76,000 for the
University of Babylon for the rehabilitation of two women's dorms, which enabled
female students to return to classes.
Higher Education. Five grants valued over $15.0 million were awarded to
strengthen partnerships between American and Iraqi Universities.
A Message from President Bush to the Participants of the Voice of Women in Iraq
Conference, July 9, 2003
I send greetings to all those participating in The Voice of
Women in Iraq Conference.
Iraq's road to recovery from dictatorship to democracy will take time. The
ability, strength, and determination of all Iraqi citizens, including the women
of Iraq, will play a critical role in building an Iraq that is peaceful,
prosperous, and democratic.
I commend all those attending this important conference for your strong
commitment to creating an Iraq where the benefits of freedom and opportunity are
available to all citizens. The women of Iraq's courage and resolve are hopeful
examples to all who seek to restore Iraq's place among the world's greatest
civilizations. Their efforts also inspire individuals throughout the Middle East
who seek a future based on equality, respect, and rule of law. By working
together, we will achieve our mutual goals and bring the promise of hope and
security to Iraq and the world.
Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a successful conference.
The women of Iraq's courage and resolve are hopeful examples to all who
seek to restore Iraq's place among the world's greatest civilizations. Their
efforts inspire individuals throughout the Middle East who seek a future based
on equality, respect, and rule of law. By working together, we will achieve our
mutual goals and bring the promise of hope and security to Iraq and the world.
President George W. Bush, July 9, 2003
Message to Voices of Iraqi Women Conference in Baghdad