By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Multi-National Division - Center
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – As America celebrates its civil rights progress, coalition and Iraqi leaders gathered for a Women's Initiative Seminar on Camp Victory Jan. 17 bringing together assets from both national and provincial levels for the first time in its movement.
"I want to bring forward studies on women and human rights to be able to live in peace in the country and bring change to some aspects of our society's perspective," said Sameera al-Mosawi, president of the board for the Council of Representative of Women, Family and Children Committee. "We want people to believe in this change like America did."
The seminar sought to provide a forum where Iraqi government and coalition representatives at all levels could openly discuss the challenges facing women in Iraq.
"Increased and honest exchanges of information are vital to the development of any plan of action that addresses this seminal Iraqi societal issue," said Lt. Col. Robert Jones, Multi-National Corps – Iraq deputy civil affairs officer.
Representatives brought forth ideas and actual programs for projects in the future. Sameera discussed establishing research centers to study women's issues and roles in society. She felt scientific studies, both through universities and public agencies, would be a powerful tool in uniting people toward a focused vision.
The main hurdle is to increase women's rights awareness among the people, Sameera said.
"Society cannot grow unless women participate in culture, and society must realize this through education courses in all levels, both in rural and urban areas," she said.
Representatives discussed using the help of non-government agencies, such as small businesses and private companies, to improve education but also by supporting financial projects.
Currently, there are 42 kindergartens in the entire country of Iraq, 20 of which are in Baghdad. Sameera said these centers are not enough to provide care and education to more than 13 million young children. Building additional centers would provide job opportunities to women as teachers directly, but also to mothers who would otherwise remain home with their youngest child.
There is also a need for women learning craftsmanship and other skills important in their present economic markets. Ideally, both the trainers and the women learning would earn grants and financial aid while training.
"In my personal opinion, an educated woman is distinguished and stands in a better position among her community of women," said Nawal Majid al-Samarrai, minister of state women's affairs.
"We only need to assist her [to give her] an opportunity," she said.
Many of the projects brought to the table went beyond achieving rights for just women. There was discussion about children, orphans, displaced families and even the disabled.
Challenges facing this effort include a lack of resources, both human and financial. Additionally, the government does not have a unified vision, coupled with an ongoing movement to decrease national spending through ministry consolidation.
"It is paramount to involve women's programs through the restructuring of these ministries," Sameera said.
The biggest hurdle, Nawal said, is that offices for women's initiatives don't exist in provinces and cities throughout Iraq. They have been limited to inside Baghdad, isolated from the women who need it most in the communities.
"In terms of these obstacles, they're certainly placed for a short period of time," Sameera said.
"I'm very optimistic about the vision of Iraq. I'm optimistic as well that Iraq will develop for the future, and it will be part of the international community and do good for the Iraqi society as a whole."
This work, Seminar discusses vision for women's rights, by MSG Michel Sauret, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.