Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative

A Series of Workshops

Jul 20, 2006

About this Workshop Series
Workshops
Past Events
Resources


The Middle East Program and the former Conflict Prevention Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars established the Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative in April 2003, to focus on the substantial role women can and should have in building a new Iraq.

The Initiative consists of workshops in the region, which aim to empower Iraqi women to involve themselves in all phases of reconstruction projects, peacebuilding, and election processes. International experts, trainers, and facilitators from Arabic-speaking countries have conducted trainings in leadership, networking, political activism, conflict resolution, and international conventions.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, over one hundred seventy Iraqi women have participated actively in workshops arranged by the Wilson Center and its partners. Attendees represent a balanced variety of ethnic, political, geographic, professional, and religious backgrounds. Workshops are designed as "trainings of trainers," with the intention that participants will return to Iraq and share their knowledge with other women activists.

The Middle East Program's workshops in the region have been made possible through funding from the
United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and from the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) of the U.S. Department of State. All workshops held in Beirut, Lebanon were cosponsored by the Centre for Women at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

Additionally, as part of the Initiative, the Middle East Program organizes public forums and private briefings to expose policymakers and the development communities to the achievements and priorities of Iraqi women. Events in Washington, DC are often cosponsored by the former Conflict Prevention Project (now the Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity), the Initiative for Inclusive Security, and the U.S. Department of State.

Workshops

"Iraqi Women as Agents of Peace"
October 31, 2008
Washington, DC, United States
Sponsored by the Middle East Program,
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The Middle East Program hosted ten grassroot activist Iraqi women from different regions in Iraq. The participants shared information about their work on peace initiatives and conflict resolution, either independently or as leaders of NGOs. Despite their efforts, the women acknowledged that their actions remain limited by the repercussions of continuing violence, as well as the political and educational barriers faced by women in Iraq.

"Building a New Iraq: Empowering Women to Negotiate for Change"
June 11-13, 2006
Amman, Jordan
Sponsored by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI),
U.S. Department of State

This workshop exposed fourteen participants to conflict resolution terminology and techniques, such that they can employ negotiation skills to encourage increased female participation in legislative processes and enhance the ability of women leaders to work together across sectarian and regional boundaries. The agenda was designed to provide participants with a common vocabulary and shared understanding of key conflict resolution and negotiation principles, as well as with the opportunity to engage in simulated negotiations by testing new methodologies and techniques in conflict resolution. Specifically, inter-group and inter-coalition political case studies were highly relevant to practical challenges faced by the Iraqi participants.

"Strategizing Approaches to Reforming Regional Family Law"
February 14-17, 2006
Amman, Jordan
Sponsored by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI),
U.S. Department of State

This workshop aimed to review and compare specific aspects of regional family laws and provided tools with which to approach progressive reforms. Because family law throughout the Middle East and North Africa is based on shari'a law, the majority of the discussions dealt specifically with women's rights as they are mentioned in the Koran. Twenty-six participants from throughout the region discussed methods for expanding the political influence of women by looking at the examples of regional countries and by analyzing the potential application of international conventions. Participants explored how reforms to family law can be used as a vehicle for encouraging increased female participation in the legislative process, and they worked to build cooperative regional networks to facilitate greater women's rights.

"Strategizing Women's Role in Influencing Legislation"
December 2-5, 2005
Amman, Jordan
Sponsored by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI),
U.S. Department of State

This workshop explored how women in the Middle East and North Africa have worked and continue to work for women's increased rights within existing legal frameworks. Twenty-eight participants, panelists, and trainers from eleven countries (Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, United States, and Yemen) reviewed regional examples of women's empowerment and discussed methods for influencing legislation within the framework of existing constitutions, personal status laws, civil codes based on the shari'a, and international conventions. The workshop also aimed to expose Iraqi women activists to lessons learned by women from the region, as they work together to determine joint plans of action for influencing legislation that addresses women's rights in political, economic, legal, and social realms.

"Building a New Iraq: How to Make the Constitution Work for Women"
September 19-21, 2005
Beirut, Lebanon
Sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
Hosted by Centre for Women at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

This workshop prepared women members of Iraq's Constitutional Drafting Committee, Interim National Assembly, and civil society organizations to continue playing an active part in the debate on the constitution from both within and outside of parliament. Training sessions exposed participants to progressive regional constitutions and international conventions that could inform the writing and interpretation of the constitution, such that it addresses the needs and concerns of Iraqi women. This workshop was held within one month of the October 15, 2005 referendum during which the Iraqi constitution was approved. Thus, participants were able to have concrete discussions about specific constitutional articles; to create plans of action about the implementation of the articles; and to consider legislation that might be created to complement articles, such that laws will addresses women's needs.

"Building a New Iraq: Women's Role in Drafting the Constitution"
May 3–5, 2005
Beirut, Lebanon
Sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
Hosted by Centre for Women at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

This workshop involved twenty-one women—including fifteen members of the Interim National Assembly (INA), three of whom were immediately thereafter named as members of the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC). The goal of the workshop was to expose participants to materials that would help them to make recommendations about the writing of the permanent Iraqi constitution, such that it addresses the needs and concerns of Iraqi women. The workshop was also intended to strengthen the capacity of women's networks to urge both women and men to incorporate gender-sensitive language and policy into the constitution. By reaching members of the INA and CDC, as well as leaders of civil society organizations and NGOs, trainers aimed to mobilize women to play an active and strong part in the debate on the future Iraqi constitution from both within and outside of the government.

"Building a New Iraq: Women's Role in the Political Process on the Eve of the January 2005 Elections"
December 13–16, 2004
Beirut, Lebanon
Sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
Hosted by Centre for Women at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

This workshop was held just six weeks before the January 2005 parliamentary elections and involved eighteen Iraqi participants, including the minister of state for women's affairs and eight women running in the elections. Training dealt with strategies to emphasize the legitimate role of women as candidates, strengthen activities of women's wings of political parties, and encourage women to become candidates. Participants discussed outlets for involvement and mainstreaming gender-sensitivity in Iraq such as: assuming roles as commissioners and polling station officials; helping refugees and internally displaced persons register to vote; interacting with media to promote effective coverage of women candidates and issues of special concern to women; and encouraging women to vote and men to support this initiative. The workshop also focused on methods for elected women to encourage, establish, and support programs to develop cross-party cooperation, networking, policymaking, and training of potential candidates.

"Building a New Iraq: Women's Role in the Political Process"
July 11-13, 2004
Beirut, Lebanon
Sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
Hosted by Centre for Women at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

This workshop aimed to promote Iraqi women's involvement in the January 2005 elections and facilitate their inclusion in post-conflict reconstruction. Training focused on strategies for increasing women's political participation through expanded roles and responsibilities for community leaders; management skills for running effective NGOs; developing a plan for coordination and cooperation; and utilizing international mechanisms to assist women in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. The workshop trained twenty-eight Iraqi women in organization and mobilization tactics—not only for succeeding in parliamentary campaigns but also for pursuing managerial positions in the government. Participants developed a plan of action for the six months then remaining before the January 2005 parliamentary elections.

"Building a New Iraq: Women's Role in Reconstruction"
November 9-19, 2003
Washington, DC

This workshop aimed to facilitate collaboration between Iraqi women leaders and policymakers based in Washington. The Wilson Center, along with the World Bank, the Initiative for Inclusive Security, and the American Bar Association—Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (ABA—CEELI), hosted a high-level delegation of twenty Iraqi women. Members of the delegation met with George W. Bush, president of the United States; Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defense; Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for global affairs; Sandra Day O'Connor, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; numerous members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; and James Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank. The delegation identified priorities to guide the drafting of a constitution, progress towards full sovereignty, and preparation for elections.

"Winning the Peace: Women's Role in Post-Conflict Iraq"
April 21-22, 2003
Washington, DC
Cosponsored by the Initiative for Inclusive Security

During this workshop, more than sixty local experts from NGOs and key international and U.S. agencies participated in discussions with twenty-five Iraqi women. Hailing the end of Saddam Hussein's regime and looking to the future, participants cited the notable lack of consideration regarding the involvement, concerns, rights, and particular needs of the majority of the country's population: its women. Discussions focused on the inclusion of women in four vital sectors of Iraqi administration: democracy and governance; economic activity; constitutional law and legislation; and civil society. Participants met with sector experts and policymakers to identify pressing demands and potential contributions of women during Iraq's transition to self-government.

Past Events

Women and Change in the Middle East 5/1/06

Building the New Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities in Establishing a Unity Government (2/8/06)

Post-election Iraq: What's Next for Women (1/19/06)

The Iraq Elections: Women to the Ballot Box (12/22/04)

Live Webcast: Iraq Before the January 2005 Elections (12/06/04)

Memorial Service for Fern Holland and Salwa Ali Oumashi (3/25/04)

Leaders from Iraq Discuss What Comes Next (3/12/04)

Preparing for the Post-Post War Reconstruction in Iraq: What Has Been Accomplished and What Lies Ahead (2/26/04)

Women Leaders from Iraq: Perspectives on Reconstruction (11/13/03)

A Conversation with Songul Chapouk, Member of the Iraqi Governing Council (9/22/03)

The Status of Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Iraq: A View from the Field (5/29/03)

Winning the Peace: Women's Role in Post-Conflict Iraq (4/22/03)


Resources

"Best Practices": Progressive Family Laws in Muslim Countries

English version
Arabic version

Building a New Iraq series
Regional Strategies for Empowering Women
Building a New Iraq: Ensuring Women's Rights (Arabic Translation Available)
Building a New Iraq: Women's Role in Reconstruction
Winning the Peace: Women's Role in Post-Conflict Iraq







More Than Victims











United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325

----English Version

----Arabic Version


Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

----English Version

-----Arabic Version

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

-----English Version

-----Arabic Version


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