Hivos International

About Women’s Empowerment in West Asia

Hivos works with our partners Karama and Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) on a regional level to focus the attention of national, regional and international policy makers, media and other stakeholders on women’s rights issues – especially post Arab Spring -  and on the importance of women’s political participation in decision making processes. Karama is also an important partner for high level lobby and advocacy on women’s rights issues in the region.

As the first organisation to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) in Iraq, WADI is an important partner for Hivos in the fight against FGM in Iraq and the region. WADI’s campaigns, such as “Stop FGM in Kurdistan”, turned FGM into matter of public debate for the first time.

The events in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since 2011 have shaken the world. Unprecedented civic uprisings have ousted dictators who had been in power for decades. The demands of the people participating in the massive protests were clear: freedom, dignity and justice for all. Women and men demonstrated side by side, and for once gender seemed irrelevant. The transitions are still unfolding and old structures are being challenged, while new foundations of civic engagement are being laid.

The opening up of societies in the MENA region provides unprecedented opportunities for investing in the improvement of gender equality and women’s empowerment. The work of women’s groups is now more known to the public, women’s concerns are being debated more openly and widely, and women’s groups are open to working together, with much of what separated them being put aside in favour of collaborative action. However, the uprisings have also generated major challenges for women.

The first negative impacts are already visible. The political representation of women after the fall of the dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia has declined against a backdrop of increased reports of gender-based violence (GBV) in all countries in transition. The tendency towards more conservative interpretations of Islamic Sharia law - which has a disproportionate impact on women’s lives – is adversely affecting the exercise of their rights.

Women Power in Politics Programme Iraq (2013-2015)

The Women Power in Politics (WPP) programme aims at enhancing women’s leadership in Iraq, concentrating on the months preceding and following the federal parliamentary elections of April 2014. It is a joint initiative of Hivos (based in the Netherlands) and the Iraqi Al-Amal Association (based in Iraq) and covers all provinces of Iraq.

Its aims are to get more and more capable women in leadership positions in Iraqi parliament and government, as well as achieve legislation and an environment in Iraq that are more gender sensitive and supportive of women's rights. The programme focuses on capacity development of and support to female politicians (both pre and post-election), building a more supportive environment towards female leadership, and voters’ awareness about women in politics.

WPP includes activities with female politicians, as well as with political parties, media and communities geared at turning female aspirants into skilled and confident candidates in the election campaigns.

Federal Parliamentary elections were held in Iraq on April 30 2014. In the months before the elections, Hivos and Al-Amal trained and supported 816 female candidates from all provinces of Iraq and from a wide variety of political parties. Now, 17 women are entering the Iraqi parliament as first-time MPs after having received training and support from Al-Amal and Hivos through the Women Power in Politics programme.

The WPP activities with the politicians in the year after the elections will help make female representatives in parliament and government more effective leaders who can promote women’s rights and engage in grassroots outreach.