Initiative Improves Iraqi Women's Quality of Life
Wed, 18 Feb 2009 10:14:00 -0600
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Initiative Improves Iraqi Women's Quality of LifeBy Army Spc. Debralee P. Crankshaw
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Feb. 18, 2009 - A rash of suicide bombings by women in Iraq in 2008 led officials to create a program to empower Iraqi women by fostering equality and the ensuring their basic human rights are met.
The first component of the three-part Women's Initiative Program is to reverse the trend in female suicide bombings, which increased from seven in 2007 to 38 last year, officials said.
Army Capt. Jennifer Glossinger, Women's Initiative program coordinator, speaks with a woman about issues Iraqi women face near Baghdad, Feb. 16, 2009. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The thought behind it is that the women have lost so many of the men in their families -- fathers, brothers, husbands, friends," said Army Capt. Jennifer Glossinger, Women's Initiative coordinator for the 10th Mountain Division's 413th Civil Affairs Battalion. "What happens to so many is they become very vulnerable, because they don't have many resources. A lot of times they're left with many [children] to take care of. They may not be able to read or write.
"The Women's Initiative looks to fill in the gaps and provide some of those basic needs to mitigate some of those female suicide bombings," she said.
The second part of the initiative is economic development. "Eighty percent of employment comes from the agricultural sector in [the Multinational Division Center area of operations]," Glossinger said. "Seventy percent of that work force is composed of women. Women do just about all of the work."
The initiative works with provincial reconstruction teams and agriculture teams, which can include women's programs at extension centers.
"The extension center's main goal is to create a place where people can come and learn about new technology," Glossinger said. "They can come together and pool their money to buy equipment or work as a team and help strengthen each other."
Glossinger said she also would like to see youth programs and a promotion of literacy at the extension center.
While rural areas are the main focus of the program, the initiative also encourages women in urban areas to obtain grants to start businesses.
The initiative's third area of focus is human rights. One way to ensure these rights is to encourage women to help other women.
"In Dhi Qar there are 12 women lawyers, and they are talking about opening a women's center there and providing legal services to women," Glossinger said.
The initiative's goal is to provide information and support to better assist Iraqi women.
"Our main goal is not to change the culture, but to strengthen what they have in terms of employment and education," Glossinger said. "I think it's important to be realistic in what you focus on. Most of the women in the [Multinational Division Center] area are rural and need the most basic things like jobs and education."
(Army Spc. Debralee P. Crankshaw serves in Multinational Division Center.)
Multinational Corps Iraq
A model of opportunity for women in Iraq is being delivered. In Iran, a burgeoning set of freedoms for women was derailed by the Islamic Revolution. Although women still enjoy some freedoms, in neighboring countries this is not the case. Don't even get me started on the treatment of homosexuals. The culture of many nations under Islamic influence is severely restricted in the category of human rights, equality and freedom. In the case of Pakistan, the Pakistani government agreed to enforce Sharia in order to mitigate the influence of Taliban militants. Let me be clear, any religion, government or system of laws in which a portion of the population is treated unequally due to class, gender, faith, race, personal orientation (providing it's not sociopathy) or other "uncontrollable" aspect is wrong and should be challenged. Proposition 8 in California is a bad example in the United States. However, there is much work to be done in the rest of the world. The UN, not my favorite organization - but better than Sea Shepherd - even codifies these beliefs in their Human Rights charter. It is politically tough to address these issues as a government when we must "play nice" with our neighbors and "respect cultural differences". At times we must stand firm on our principles, while not ignoring our own shortcomings, and place the scrutiny clearly where it belongs.