Office of International Women's Issues
May 15, 2006
U.S. Support for Women in Iraq
"America is a leader in promoting women’s rights because we know that by investing in women, we are investing in a better, more hopeful and more peaceful world….When women are educated and involved in the decisions that shape their lives, their children are better educated, their health and nutrition improves, family income rises, civil society is more likely to flourish."
~ Under Secretary Karen Hughes
International Women’s Day, March 8, 2006
Since the liberation of Iraq, the United States has actively supported the needs and interests of Iraqi women, helping to provide them with the tools necessary to participate fully in their country’s political, social, and economic future. The U.S. Government has worked closely with the representatives of the Interim, Transitional, and the current government of Iraq, as well as with local civil society partners, to protect women’s constitutional rights and promote women’s equal participation in society and government.
Political and Constitutional Training
Over the past year, Iraqi women have been at the forefront of the formation of a democratic government in Iraq, both at the grassroots level and in the national government. Iraqi women voters turned out in force in all three elections of 2005. The United States supports government initiatives and NGOs that advance Iraqi women’s political empowerment, including extensive public education campaigns on political activism and the drafting of the constitution.
- Over 2000 women ran for office in the January 2005 parliamentary elections. Women won 31% of the seats Transitional National Assembly (TNA); 40% of these women were trained under US government programs.
- Eleven of the 71 members of the TNA’s Constitutional Drafting Committee were women. Six of the 40 Cabinet-level Ministers were women.
- During the drafting of the constitution, women’s organizations mobilized to protect their legal rights. The U.S. Senate supported their efforts with Resolution 231, which encouraged the Transitional National Assembly to adopt a constitution guaranteeing women’s rights.
- The Iraqi Constitution, approved by popular referendum in October 2005, sets a goal of having women constitute no less than 25% of the parliament; electoral lists must be written so that every third candidate on the voting lists is a woman.
- In the new Council of Representatives, called into session in March 2006, 66 of the 275 seats are held by women.
- USAID provided $500,000 to the Raffadin Women’s Coalition, comprised of more than 30 women’s groups, to help them produce leaflets, organize events, and access the media.
Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative
The State Department’s Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative (IWDI) is administered by the Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues (G/IWI) and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). Since September 2004, eight major grantees have conducted extensive training programs in Iraq to help provide Iraqi women with skills in democracy-building, organizational and political leadership, teaching, coalition-building, organizational management, entrepreneurship, and the media. The next phase of the Initiative will step up job training and micro-grants to Iraqi women, with particular outreach to youth and the unemployed. IWDI will also strengthen the capacity of independent women’s NGOs, build partnerships with local universities, and establish centers to be run by and for young Iraqi women.
Key accomplishments of the Initiative include the following:
- Over 50% of the women elected to the Council of Representatives were trained by grantees of the Initiative.
- IWDI grantees helped the female members of the Iraqi National Assembly form the Women’s Caucus to advocate for women’s issues across party lines; provided orientation training to the new members of the Council of Representatives; and worked with NGO partners to provide civic training to more than 60,000 Iraqi women.
- In October 2005, ten female diplomats spent two weeks of training at the UN, the Department of State, and the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.
- In February and March of 2006, IWDI sponsored a delegation of Iraqi women leaders, including newly elected members of the Council of Representatives and heads of NGOs, to participate in the UN Commission on the Status of Women and in International Women's Day events led by the First Lady and the Secretary of State. The women job-shadowed members of Congress and took part in state and local government assembly meetings in Maryland and Virginia.
- Male and female journalists trained by an Initiative grantee produce regular, in-depth reporting on women’s issues in Iraq. The grantee is establishing two radio stations in the North and Central regions of Iraq; their programming will cover women’s issues.
Economic and Social Support
Recognizing that economic independence is key to women’s political and social empowerment, the U.S. Government works to ensure that women participate in and benefit from Iraq’s economic reconstruction.
- USAID’s Private Sector Development Office reaches out to women in the business and agriculture communities by providing both capacity building training and financial resources. A new business grants program began in February 2005, with the goal of awarding 30 % of its grants to women. Almost 60% of USAID’s small business grants have been awarded to women.
- USAID’s Iraq Civil Society Program (ICSP) provides technical assistance to Iraqi NGOs working in support of women’s rights.
- The Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues in 2006 sponsored a group of Iraqi businesswomen to the US-Arab Economic Forum, a conference attracting high-profile political and business leaders from the US and the Middle East.
In addition to supporting education initiatives in Iraq, the Department of State, through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, sponsors exchange programs with the U.S.
- Over the past 2 years, 17 Iraqi women have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships in the social sciences, public administration, law, business, and public health fields.
- In 2005 and 2006, the State Department’s "YES" Youth Exchange Program selected eight young Iraqi women to live with an American host family and attend a U.S. high school for an academic year.
- In the 2005 and 2006, 54 Iraqi women participated in a number of regional, multi-regional, and single country International Visitor Leadership (IVL) and Voluntary Visitor Programs in English language teaching, civic education, civil society development, democracy and governance, women’s leadership, NGO management, education and journalism fields.
Public-Private Support for Iraqi Women
The U.S. Government encourages American corporations and individuals to show their support for Iraqi women:
- In 2005, the Department of State established a unique private-public partnership, called the Iraqi Women’s Gift Fund, to enable U.S. corporations and private citizens to become involved in the economic and political empowerment of Iraqi women. Partners interested in providing material and monetary support for U.S.-sponsored programs for Iraqi women can find further information on our website: http://www.state.gov/g/wi/c8973.htm.
- In January 2006, the Department of Defense, Department of State, USAID, and the U.S. Institute for Peace joined forces to establish a Working Group on Iraqi Women’s Economic Empowerment. The group strives to pool the human, material, and technical resources of the public, private, and NGO sectors to help identify and implement projects that are essential to women’s economic advancement. The focus is on improving women’s access to credit, training women in business and marketing skills, arranging mentorships with American businesswomen, and seeking essential equipment and material donations for initiatives in Iraq.
- As a result of Department of State outreach, the World Bank provided a three-day digital video training session on microfinance. More than 50 businesswomen and NGO leaders registered for the training, which was held at the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning.
- The Department of State, with partners such as the World Bank, has helped sponsor delegations of Iraqi business and NGO leaders to the Global Summit of Women, an annual business conference that has been dubbed "the Davos for women."
"There are those who say that democracy is for men alone. In fact, the opposite is true: Half a democracy is not a democracy. As one Muslim woman leader has said, "Society is like a bird. It has two wings. And a bird cannot fly if one wing is broken."
~Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Remarks at the American University in Cairo,
Cairo, Egypt, June 20, 2005