A delegation of five senior Iraqi government officials and civil society leaders is visiting Washington, DC, from June 13-20 to meet with U.S. counterparts to discuss ways to address the challenges facing widows and female heads of household in Iraq. Conducted under the auspices of the Department of State’s Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative (IWDI), the program will include meetings with U.S.-based experts on the needs and concerns of widows and female heads of household, and training in topics such as social assistance and welfare, implementing national programs to support vulnerable populations, developing frameworks for action and innovation to support women’s economic empowerment. While in Washington, the Iraqi delegation will meet with senior U.S. Government officials to strengthen both countries’ understanding of the status of this disadvantaged and underrepresented segment of Iraqi society.
There are an estimated one to three million widows and single female heads of household in Iraq. One in ten households in Baghdad is headed by a woman. To address the unique needs of this vulnerable population, the Department launched the Secretary’s War Widows Initiative in 2009, which directs funds to NGOs in support of literacy, entrepreneurship, and vocational skills for Iraqi widows and female heads of household. To date, the program has awarded $10 million in grants that have covered a range of issues to build the capacity of Iraqi widows, improve NGO services to widows and their children, and connect more widows to the Government of Iraq’s widow stipend program.
The IWDI was established in 2004 by the Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to support Iraqi women’s political, economic, legal, and social advancement. Since its inception, the IWDI has provided approximately $33 million in support of efforts to advance the status of Iraqi women.