With International Women’s Day and the recent appointment of Baghdad’s first female mayor, it’s an opportune moment to remember the many “firsts” enjoyed by Iraqi women.
The nation produced the first female judge, ambassador, and government minister in the Arab world. Iraqi women benefited from state subsidised child-care and education; they once made up around half the public sector workforce and 50 percent of the country’s doctors.
Sadly, as the 12th anniversary of invasion and occupation looms, there is another, rather grim, “first” to ponder. Iraqi women are now the first to see their status go from one of the highest in the region to one of the lowest.
The tragic decline in women’s status did not happen in a vacuum. It was the result of 30 years of war and occupation, where sanctions wiped out the middle class and crippled what had once been one of the region’s best public health and education systems.
With a 3,000 percent devaluation of the dinar, mothers were forced to sell off their furniture to pay for basics, such as food and medicine. Girls were pulled out of school for early marriages or to work to help support their families. And many women, even those with PhDs, were forced into prostitution.
As the country went from secular to sectarian, churches were fire bombed for the first time ever, and life became even more of a struggle for survival. But Iraqi women carried on, women such as the Christian activist Hanaa Edwar.
Edwar runs Amal, an NGO that assists women and children, through an ambitious programme that focusses on literacy and employment training, domestic abuse prevention and political empowerment for women. She also addresses the major issue of extremism and the internally displaced, providing an avenue of hope for the women of Baghdad.
- Pray for Edwar, and other Iraqi Christian women, who seek to provide hope and empowerment for women in Iraq, often in the face of much opposition.
- Pray for the women and girls in Iraq, especially with the growth of Islamic fundamentalism.
- Pray for them to find life and hope in the Gospel and the love of their heavenly Father, who knows they are worth more than gold.
2 Corinthians 1 vs 3 -4: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.