February 16, 2004
Hilary F. White
WOMEN’S RIGHTS CENTER OPENS IN KARBALA
AMBASSADOR PAUL BREMER ATTENDS EVENT
Karbala, Iraq. The Zainab Al-Hawra'a Center for Women's Rights opened on
February 16. The purpose of the Center is to assist widowed, impoverished, and
vulnerable women as they improve their lives and those of their children. The
Center will help enable the women to participate in a free, democratic Iraq.
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA), attended the opening. He toured the facility, seeing the Center's
restaurant, internet café, sewing room, library, and day care. Ambassador Bremer
met privately with the board members, then he spoke to the more than 250 people
who attended, including women and their families. In his remarks, Ambassador
"Your future is full of hope…we in the Coalition are committed to supporting
women's rights in Iraq."
During the former Regime, Iraqi women would never have dreamed of meeting to
discuss their rights as individuals. The husbands, fathers, and sons of many of
the women attending were killed by the former regime. So many men in South
Central Iraq were killed, women represent more than 60% of the population. The
Center provides an opportunity for women to claim back their freedoms and focus
on their futures as leaders and valuable participants in the reconstruction of a
free Iraq. Ambassador Bremer provided encouragement to the women as they work
for a democratic Iraq:
"Iraq is back, and its future is not destined by the chains of a dictatorship.
Iraq is full of hope, and I know you will succeed."
One of the Center's many success stories is an Iraqi woman who began
volunteering after the Center hired her husband as a security guard. She assists
at the reception desk and today brought her young children to the opening. She
has said the following about the Center:
"This Center has changed my life. I used to be depressed. Now I am excited when
I wake up in the morning!"
The women want financial independence and political involvement. To achieve
these goals, the Center will provide the following income generating activities:
daycare, catering, restaurant, internet café, production of clothes to sell in
the local market, and electrical appliance shop. The Center will also offer the
following educational and assistance programs: women and children’s nutrition
classes, health classes, cooking classes, sewing classes, literacy programs,
library, widows program, English classes, computer classes, and democracy and
Located in a former Ba'athist building, the women named their new Center after
the revered Zainab Al-Hawra'a, the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad. This
Women’s Rights Center is the third to open in the South Central Region, which
represents approximately 12 million people. The Coalition Provisional Authority
and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) worked with
women from all across Karbala to establish the Center. In the coming weeks, more
Centers will open as well.
Learning about freedom and responsibility in a democratic society are essential
as Iraqis move toward a sovereign government. The Center represents another
important step forward for all Iraqi women as they participate in a free,