U.S. Funds Projects to Train, Educate Iraqi Women

Fact Sheet
Office of International Women's Issues
May 24, 2004/S


"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.

The capture of Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003, was greeted by many Iraqi women 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 strongly supports Iraqi women's participation in the political, economic, and social reconstruction of their country. Above and beyond the $20 billion U.S. investment in Iraq's overall reconstruction, which benefits all Iraqis, we are allocating $27 million to projects that specifically help women with democratic organization and advocacy. Iraqi women are working with the United States to develop diverse programs, from literacy, computer and vocational training to educating women about their human rights. Women's self-help and vocational centers are springing up across Iraq, from Karbala to Kirkuk, and micro-credit facilities and workshops are helping aspiring Iraqi businesswomen. Additional funds are improving women's access to quality health care, including maternal and child health.

On March 8, 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced two new
initiatives: a $10 million Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative, and the
U.S.- Iraq Women's Network (USIWN). The Network is a voluntary public-private partnership to forge links between U.S. and Iraqi women's organizations and to match private sector resources with critical needs on the ground. The Democracy Initiative will benefit women in seven key
areas: education for democracy; leadership training; political training; teaching entrepreneurship; NGO capacity building; organizational management and coordination, and media outreach.

Political Participation and Civil Society

Women and the Transitional Administrative Law: In November 2003, the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council agreed to a process to restore Iraq's sovereignty, and to adopt a fundamental law leading to a permanent constitution ensuring equal rights for all Iraqis. The process of framing this law generated weeks of democratic debate within the Council. Late in the deliberations, some members attempted to impose Shari'a family law, in the form of "Resolution 137," to restrict women's equal rights. In response, hundreds of Iraqi women took to the streets in peaceful protest, while women leaders argued forcefully behind closed doors for repeal. The women of Iraq are proud of their role in persuading the Iraqi Governing Council to overturn Resolution 137 on March 1, 2004.

On March 8, 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council signed the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), an historic document that guarantees the basic rights of all Iraqis, men and women, including freedoms of worship, expression and association. The TAL sets important precedents for a new Iraqi constitution. It protects labor unions and political parties, and outlaws discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, class, or religion. The TAL also provides that the electoral system should aim for women to constitute at least 25 percent of the Transitional National Assembly. This document is exceptional in the region for its support of fundamental rights for all citizens, including women.

Iraqi Women in Government: At the national level, three women serve on the Governing Council. The Minister of Municipalities and Public Works is also a woman, Nesreen Berwari. In April 2004, the CPA approved the first list of deputy ministers. Women hold 7 of these posts, in the following important ministries: Agriculture, Transportation, Culture, Displacement and Migration, Electricity, Environment, and Higher Education.

At the local level the results are even better. Women occupy six of the 37 seats on the Baghdad City Council, 81 serve on neighborhood and district councils around the capital, and many women have also been elected to district, local and municipal councils in most other regions of Iraq.

Political Workshops for Women: The United States is committed to the equal participation of women in shaping the new political landscape of Iraq, including participation in the upcoming elections. To prepare the ground for this historic transition, the Department of State and its partners are sponsoring political workshops and related programs for Iraqi women, such as:

-- Supporting an Iraqi delegation of 14 women leaders at the United Nations 48th Annual Commission on the Status of Women Conference, held in March 2004

-- Supporting the Iraqi National Council for Women's first constituent conference in January 2004, which set a national agenda for increasing women's political participation.

-- Supporting regional conventions of Iraqi women to advance their human rights, including October 2003 conferences attended by hundreds of women activists in Al-Hillah and in Sulaimaniya,

Women's Centers: The United States Government is supporting the creation of 9 Women's Centers in Baghdad and 11 regional Women's Centers throughout Iraq. Centers in Al-Kut, Diwaniyah, Karbala, Al-Hillah, Mosul, Najaf, and Sulaimaniya have been completed, and centers in Aqrah, Biara, Halabja, and Tawela will be completed shortly.

These Centers offer computer and literacy classes, job skills, education and training for financial independence, and access to information regarding health care, legal services, and women's human rights. Selected Centers will also offer sanctuary from domestic violence, to a potential beneficiary group of tens of thousands of women. In addition, the Centers will also help widowed, impoverished, and vulnerable women, improving their lives and those of their children. All of the centers will be open to all women, and run by women who are democratically elected. The following centers opened during the last eight months:

-- The Zainab al-Hawraa Center opened February 16, 2004, in Karbala. This Center was established with the assistance of two grants from USAID partner Development Alternatives International (DAI), for a total of $163,228.

-- The Diwaniyah Women's Rights Center opened January 9, 2004. This is the second Center in the South Central Region, with approximately 12 million people.

-- The Fatima Al-Zahra Women's Rights Center opened October 1, 2003 in Al-Hilla.

-- The Mansour Women's Opportunity Center in Baghdad opened in March 2004, and is providing business and vocational training to women and girls, particularly widows and victims of rape, torture and trafficking. In addition, the center will provide micro-credit loans to help women start home-based businesses. Eight other centers will open soon in Baghdad.

-- The Arbil Khatuzeen Women's Center for Social Action is developing a "Women's Radio Station," with USAID funding, to increase its outreach to community women, generate revenues through production and ads, and increase women's political participation

Economic Opportunity

Job Skills: Above and beyond the U.S. commitment to women's full participation in Iraq's overall reconstruction and growing economy, there are various targeted programs to enhance women's economic opportunities. For example, an Iraqi businesswomen's organization, the New Horizons of Iraq, meets weekly at the Baghdad Community Center, where the CPA provides information on employment and training opportunities. The recent rehabilitation of the Al-Khadhra'a Women's facility will benefit 5,000 families. This women-run facility has 150 full-time sewing machine operators, mostly women, and 700 part-time operators. In March 2004, through a grant by USAID, the Al-Salam/Ardel Nakleh Association, an Iraqi NGO, developed a sewing training program in Sadr City. The grant is supplying sewing tools, office equipment, and furniture. Beyond such traditional vocations, additional grants will soon be available to provide training and other support to Iraqi women working to launch their own businesses.

Integration into the Global Economic Community: A systematic effort is underway to ensure the inclusion of Iraqi women into regional and
international networks or events. In 2004 Iraqi women will participate
in the Partnership for Learning conference in Istanbul, the Global Summit of Women in Seoul, and other upcoming workshops. The United States is also developing detailed plans to bring together Iraqi women and their counterparts from other Arab countries for professional training under the auspices of the Middle East Partnership Initiative. (

Organizations and Associations: The United States has given $6.5 million to Iraqi women's groups, NGOs, community service organizations, and professional associations that work on women's issues. Significant additional funding, available through an open competition for the best proposals, has been aside to help such groups form coalitions and better coordinate their activities.


Vaccinations and Nutrition: As of April 2004, more than three million children under five have been vaccinated under the Expanded Immunization Program (EPI) since June 2003. The full amount of EPI vaccines will benefit 4.2 million children under the age of five and 700,000 pregnant women.

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: As of April 2004, the United States has renovated 2, 358 schools, and the World Bank issued a grant for $40 million to distribute 72 million new textbooks for 6 million primary and secondary school children. In these and all other educational programs, girls and women are accorded full equality - a vast improvement over the previous regime's practice, particularly in its final decade.

Teacher Training: By January 2004, 860 secondary school master trainers, and 31,772 secondary teachers and administrative staff, were trained in programs funded by USAID.

Higher Education: Five grants valued over $15 million were awarded to strengthen partnerships between American and Iraqi Universities. Student, scholar, and other exchange programs have also been revived. Of the 20 new, prestigious Iraqi Fulbright finalists this year, six are women.

These fact sheets are available online at U.S. Department of State, Office of International Women's Issues. (  ).  Please check periodically for updates.

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