News: Iraqi women, MoD make positive change for future generations
Story by Spc. Karen Sampson
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi people have a willingness and desire to achieve a modern democratic society and this goal demands the commitment of every citizen toward the effort. Achieving this goal requires the establishment of gender equality.
The United States Forces – Iraq Joint Intelligence Office at the U.S. Embassy, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, along with the Iraqi defense and security ministries are helping female citizens of Iraq by broadening educational horizons.
The USF-I Joint Intelligence Office sponsored the third Iraqi Women Professionals in the Defense and Security Ministries Conference Sept. 20. These groups met with professional women, employed by the MoD, to discuss programs to assist them reach their full potential. Lee LeComte, the USF-I’s director of joint intelligence, and Cmdr. Helen Furbush, USF-I joint intelligence officer in charge, encourage and put their efforts towards the continuation of this event.
“We appreciate the challenges you face in coming here,” said LeComte. “Your sacrifices will stand the test of time. Ten to 20 years from now Iraq will reach stability and it is now all in the hands of the Iraqi people.”
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Department of State, located at the U.S. Embassy, establishes reliable resources for the women of Iraq by informing them of programs offered and what other programs are available throughout Iraq, said Sharon Quinn, a director at the DHRL.
“Our goal is simply to empower women on whatever their chosen goals,” said Quinn.
“Our purpose promotes economic empowerment, improves access to the judicial system and increases political participation,” said Quinn. “This effort is also to build a capacity of civil society organizations to effectively advocate on behalf of women’s rights.”
Change will not happen overnight, said U.S Army Col. Tanya Olson, USF-I joint operations engagement officer.
“I am sympathetic with the challenges Iraqi women face with having a professional career, as well as being a full-time mother,” said Olson.
“One single action on behalf of change makes a profound effect on society,” continued Olson. “The changes will benefit generations to come.”
Olson told the history of the many years it took the U.S. Army to consider women with the same promotion procedures as men.
“The role of the professional military women keeps evolving with the efforts on behalf of equality,” said Olson.
Whether a society acts morally or not, women cannot secede from involvement, said Hamid Kati’ Al-Sa’ad, director of the MoD Human Rights Directorate.
“To measure up to other modern societies depends on the education of Iraq’s women,” said Hamid. “Women are more than half the strength of Iraq and are raising the other half of our population.”
The attendees of the conference were able to hear the only female army brigadier general in Iraq speak. Brig. Gen. Su'ad Umran Al-Jashemi, director of medical services at Muthanna Airfield has over 20 years experience with the Iraqi army and the medical field.
A graduate of Baghdad University, Su’ad’s achievements encourage women to be forthright and courageous toward their goals.
“It is time for Iraqi women to take the responsibility of leadership positions and start to work with the men,” said Su’ad.
“You must exercise a very strong personality for a high-level position,” said Su’ad. “Please, be willing to encounter obstacles as you reach your goals.”
“Have knowledge of, and believe in your rights,” continued Su’ad. “The next generation will follow your example.”
Ban Shakir Al-Imarah, a speaker from the July 26 conference, returned to share some good news.
One week after the July 26 conference, Al-Imarah said she obtained approval from her ministry to establish an office that would help Iraqi women against national insecurities.
“Women in Iraq are at risk to be taken advantage of or abused by harmful entities,” said Al-Imarah.
Often there is a risk of women being recruited to commit terrorist acts such as kidnapping, attempted murder or coerced to wear suicide vests in order to protect their families, she said.
“This is the first office of its kind in Iraq,” stated Al-Imarah. “It is established for the Iraqi woman’s security and her family’s safety.”
Now the former president of the Iraqi Women’s Alliance stands as the director of the new Women’s Security Office of Iraq she pioneered.
This example is evidence of positive change brought from the involvement of the Iraqi women and men in the security and defense ministries. Engaging every citizen to work toward this common goal shows the desire for a democratic society. With such efforts catching on in other professions and areas of daily life, Iraq is within reach of its goal of stability.