Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues
June 22, 2005
U.S. Commitment to Women in Iraq
"All of us were impressed by the high voter turnout in Iraq. Each ink-stained finger belonged to a man or a woman
On January 30, 2005, more than 8 million Iraqi people went to the polls in historic national elections, 18 provincial elections, and the Kurdistan Regional government election. A 275-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA), which is charged with the responsibility of drafting a new constitution, was elected to serve as Iraq’s national legislature for a transition period. Women occupy 31% of the seats. Women also lead the ministries of Displacement and Migration, Telecommunications, Municipalities and Public Works, Environment, Science and Technology, as well as, Women’s Affairs.
The United States remains firmly committed to the political, economic, and social reconstruction of Iraq. As part of the approximately $21 billion in U.S. funding for Iraqi reconstruction in 2003 and 2004, the United States allocated nearly half a billion dollars to support democracy-building programs in Iraq -- including projects that specifically help women with democratic organization and advocacy. U.S. Government-sponsored programs are helping Iraqi women develop in areas from literacy, computer, and vocational training to human rights education. Micro-credit facilities and workshops are helping aspiring Iraqi businesswomen, and additional funds are improving women’s access to quality health care.
The U.S. democracy programs helped Iraqi women prepare for the elections. Through grants funded by the U.S. State Department’s $10 million Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provided training in political leadership, communications, and coalition-building skills to many of the women members of the National Assembly. These grants also provided the funding for voter education. Since early February, training has focused on constitution drafting, legal reform, and the legislative process. Over 2000 Iraqi women already have been trained in political, economic and media skills under this Initiative.
In addition to the Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative, the State Department created a U.S.-Iraq Women’s Network (USIWN). The USIWN is a 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 grants-based Initiative benefits women in key areas: political organization and leadership, coalition-building, democracy education, media outreach and entrepreneurship.
Political Participation and Civil Society
Political Workshops for Women: The United States is committed to the equal participation of women in shaping the new political landscape of Iraq. The Department of State and its partners sponsor political workshops and related programs for Iraqi women through the Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative and other programs, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored grants to a 400-member NGO in southern Iraq to organize a series of seminars designed to increase women’s participation in political, economic, and cultural activities.
The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL): The TAL, signed in March 2004, set out the basic rights of all the people of Iraq and marked an historic step toward a achieving a democratic Iraq. Among other rights, the TAL guarantees that:
Agricultural Training: The United States provided a grant to an agricultural services center in southern Iraq to provide 6 ten-day training sessions on modern agricultural methods to 240 women. Grants and technical assistance to agricultural NGOs help improve agricultural methods and provide employment. Over 465 women now have jobs and 440 women have increased their family income.
Textile Factory: A grant from USAID’s Iraqi Transition Initiative is helping to renovate a textile factory in south central Iraq that is run by over 200 women from lower income families. This assistance will improve the factory’s work environment, increase production, and provide a venue for democracy-related training sessions for local women.
Entrepreneurial Training: In June 2005, the US Department of State helped Iraqi women participate in the Global Summit for Women in Mexico City where they met 800 other women entrepreneurs.
Women’s Mobile Teams: USAID is working with Women’s Mobile Teams to increase rural women’s access to information to improve their health and security. The curriculum includes information about domestic violence, its causes and how to combat it, crisis intervention, landmine awareness, Islam and democracy, and family-care education.
Facilities: The United States has rehabilitated over 110 primary health facilities and procured equipment for over 600 health centers.
Vaccinations and Nutrition: In the first year of Iraq’s liberation, more than 3 million children under the age of five were vaccinated under the Expanded Immunization Program (EPI). EPI vaccines will eventually benefit 4.2 million children under the age of five. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the United States has administered the tetanus toxoid vaccine to more than 700,000 pregnant women; vaccinated more than three million children against measles, mumps, and rubella; and distributed high-protein biscuits to more than 450,000 children and 200,000 pregnant and nursing mothers.
Training of Nurses: A grant to the Iraqi Nursing Association supports the recruitment and training of hundreds of women nurses and the purchase of supplies.
Schools: The United States has renovated more than 3,138 schools throughout Iraq including in many cases installing or repairing sanitary facilities for girls. During the 2003-2004 school year, 44% (1,920,401) of primary and 40% (620,834) of secondary students were girls. Enrollment is lowest for girls living in rural areas, and USAID’s Accelerated Learning Program will help 10,000 Iraqi students including many rural girls return to school during the 2005-2006 academic year.
Higher Education: USAID’s Higher Education and Development (HEAD) program awarded five grants worth $20.7 million to create partnerships between U.S. and Iraqi universities in the fields of law, public health, engineering, archeology, agriculture and general institutional and academic strengthening. The HEAD program is helping female university students, faculty and staff reintegrate with the international academic community through training, scholarships, research grants, and international conferences. Women students constitute approximately half of all participants in the USAID-supported clinical legal education program at the University of Baghdad, and almost 40 percent of the participants in recent rule of law seminars. Six women completed a course in agricultural experimental design and statistics, and seven female faculty members from an Iraqi University in the north attended a USAID-sponsored Nursing and Library Training session in Jordan. In addition, of the 25 Iraqi Fulbright finalists in 2004, 4 were women. In 2005, there will be 12 women among the 35 Iraqi Fulbright scholars.
Teacher Training: More than 33,000 secondary teachers and administrative staff, including more than 17,000 females, were trained in programs funded by USAID. Over the next year, up to 100,000 additional teachers and administrators will receive in-service training.
MEPI Business Interns Program: In 2004, Iraqi women participated in a four-month MBA program and interned at top companies in the United States. This program was offered as part of the Middle East Partnership Initiative, in conjunction with Educational and Cultural Affairs, and is being repeated in 2005.
Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues