Violence over the past six years in Iraq left an overwhelming number of women in Iraq are widowed, illiterate, and vulnerable to poverty. According to International Press Service, there are one and one half million female headed households due to the injury, death or detainment of Iraqi men.
Today, the Heai Women’s Center opened in Baghdad to cater to these individuals; providing courses in literacy and marketable skills like hairdressing, as well as a daycare center, library, and fitness center. In addition to these activities the Center offers lectures in democracy and human rights to correspond with the upcoming election.
The Center is part of a larger initiative by International Medical Corps and the Australian Agency for International Development in cooperation with the Iraqi Ministries of Education, Labor and Social Affairs, and Women’s Affairs. There are two similar centers in Nassiriya and Ramadi.
Wassan Khalid, Program Manager of Women’s Empowerment said, “Women are the majority in this country and we have a voice that must be heard in January. Too many women are suffering without access to information about the candidates. If they cannot read, how can they decide who is the best candidate? We want to empower women to take part in their democracy and take charge of their lives.”
Two hundred and forty-two women in Baghdad have participated in courses relating to democracy, human rights, and domestic violence to date. Another 195 are currently enrolled in literacy courses.
International Medical Corps has been working in Iraq for the past six years, creating sustainable initiatives focused on healthcare, humanitarian assistance, capacity building, and community engagement.