Since 2004, the Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative (IWDI) has worked through U.S. non-governmental organization (NGO) partners on the ground in Iraq to build the capacity of Iraqi women. IWDI is overseen by the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) and administered through the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).
To date, programs under the IWDI have trained around 10,000 Iraqi women in several key skill areas including: leadership, political participation, entrepreneurship, women’s rights advocacy, coalition building, negotiation, capacity building for women’s NGOs, and media skills, in addition to providing training on Iraqi women’s constitutional rights, and rights under international law.
In 2008, new grants were awarded to U.S.-based NGOs working on women’s issues in Iraq. These projects focus on support for women’s rights through multi-media public outreach, entrepreneurship and economic capacity building, women in justice, women and peace building, and increasing women's political participation, advocacy and leadership.
An exciting new focus area is the elimination of violence against women. This project seeks to combat gender-based violence by providing legal, social and medical services for victims and improving government responses to gender-based violence and greater sensitivity toward gender issues. The program will also promote greater public awareness of gender-based violence through the media and advocacy.
Entrepreneurship and economic capacity building for widows is another new focus for the IWDI. Through this project, 470 widows who are heads of households are being trained on issues such as democracy, women’s rights, entrepreneurship and career-building skills. As a result, disadvantaged Iraqi widows will acquire the skill sets to become economically self-sufficient, increase their independence, contribute to the economic development of Iraq, and enhance their understanding of their rights and civic responsibilities.
Another new program area will focus on women and peace-building, and will strengthen the capacity of women and civil society actors in the Tameem governorate to work cooperatively against violence and hate in their communities. This project will build conflict resolution skills and help women-focused organizations to design, expand, and oversee projects to steer children away from violence and towards participation in sports, youth centers and school.
Iraqi women are eager to play an active role in rebuilding their society. With programs such as these, more women will be able to take part in the democratic process and serve as examples for future generations.