Assistance Benefiting Iraqi Women
ASSISTANCE BENEFITING IRAQI WOMEN
WOMEN’S ISSUES IN IRAQ
Women play a critical role in the welfare and security of Iraqi families and are a significant force in influencing the revitalization of civil society and economic development within the country. USAID/Iraq actively supports the needs and interests of Iraqi women and incorporates gender considerations into all activities.
USAID works with elected officials, community leaders and grassroots organizations throughout the country to advocate women’s interests. USAID’s programs support women entrepreneurs, business leaders, elected officials, professionals and widows to ensure that they benefit from increased economic growth and increased capacity building.
The Community Action Program (CAP) works at the grassroots level to foster citizen involvement in advocating and implementing local development needs. CAP has supported Iraqi women through several activities, including the Women’s Awareness and Inclusion Program in southern Iraq and the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund which assists Iraqi civilians, families, communities and organizations that have been directly affected by coalition military operations. The Marla Ruzicka fund supports victims of war, widows and families of war victims, either with direct medical aid, replacing damaged property or helping them establish businesses such as grocery stores, bakeries, electronics shops or farms.
CAP’s Women’s Awareness and Inclusion (WAI) program, implemented in Basra, Dhi Qar, Muthanna and Mayson, empowers women through literacy and social inclusion programs. With over 23,000 women participants since 2005, USAID supports women by providing one-year basic literacy and math training which is supplemented with sessions on cultural and social awareness topics, such as democracy and governance, human and women’s rights, and needs identification and prioritization – all vital tools for women as they work to become powerful advocates and leaders in their communities.
The Access to Justice Program supports the disadvantaged and vulnerable population by educating them about their rights and by providing legal assistance to improve their access to justice. The program works in cooperation with professional legal associations, law schools, legal assistance NGOs and the Iraqi government. Women, including widows, IDPs, women without identity and women minorities, are the priority vulnerable group within the Access to Justice Program. The program supports women NGOs that educate women about their rights. To date, seven women NGOs have been awarded grants to support vulnerable women in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Karbala and Kurdistan Region.
The Primary Health Care Program in Iraq is designed to support the Government of Iraq to achieve its strategic goal of improving the quality of care provided to the people of Iraq, through strengthening management, clinical systems and enhancing community involvement in service delivery. Approximately one-third of health care providers involved in this program are women. The program component of enhancing the quality of maternal child health services directly targets women as a priority beneficiary group.
National and Provincial Administrative Reform Project (Tarabot) supports the development of national policies that reflect the priorities of Iraqi women. Regulations that hinder the economic progress of women in the private sector will be a particular target for reform or elimination. Tarabot provides support to implement the newly establish Civil Service Commission and the draft Civil Service law which, for the first time in Iraq, specifically grants women equal rights as public servants.
The Provincial Economic Growth Program (Tijara) provides loan capital through microfinance institutions, as well as training, and technical assistance. The microfinance industry plays a vital role in providing loans to allow Iraqis to launch small businesses and further develop their businesses to improve the quality of life. As of January 2012, the outstanding microfinance loan portfolio is more than $128 million (16% disbursed to women) in lending to more than 86,418 active clients (17,409 women and 69,009 men) spread in all 18 provinces of Iraq. USAID-Tijara partner MFIs has disbursed loans valued at $124 million to 64,052 women, thus sustaining 52,000 jobs held by women. Since its establishment, the project has provided 691 SME loans valued at $9.47 million to women across Iraq’s 18 provinces, thus improving their economic status. As an outcome of USAID-Tijara’s support to SMEs, 1,500 women now have access to better employment opportunities. The project has also established 14 new small business development centers (SBDCs) that have provided training in business management, budgeting, strategic planning, and other professional topics to more than 13,000 Iraqi entrepreneurs, 24% of whom are women.
The Agribusiness Program (Inma) is committed to making a difference in the lives of Iraqi women and vulnerable groups by providing job skills training. Through an agreement with the Al-Rawadi Widows and Orphans Welfare Organization, Agribusiness Program provides training for 100 widows in Baghdad on a number of agriculture trainings, including orchard and open field crop productions, as well as packing and labeling of products. These skills are essential for the Al-Rawadi Organization, which packages a number of food items. All of the profits from sales of the items go towards further activities and training for the women of organization.
USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) continues to provide humanitarian assistance that benefits widows and female-led households throughout Iraq, through the provision of emergency assistance such as relief supplies, food, shelter and livelihood opportunities. OFDA’s funding for emergency assistance to vulnerable populations includes several activities directly addressing the needs of widows and female-led households in Iraq.
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