Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference held in Baghdad
Under the patronage of Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Rowsch Shaways and in cooperation with UNDP Iraq, the first ever Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference was held in Baghdad on 7-8 October under the slogan “Equality Means Business”. The conference was organized with support from UN Women, ILO and IOM.
The conference was attended by Dr. Ibtihal Al-Zaidi, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Ali Al-Allaq the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers in addition to representatives from the Iraqi Council of Representatives, the Head of the High Council of Women’s Affairs in the Kurdistan Region, civil society and the private and public sectors.
“The Government of Iraq has undertaken a number of initiatives to address gender equality issues, recognizing the potential that Iraqi women have and the role they can play to improve the country’s economy” said Deputy Prime Minister Shaways. “However, much more can be done to accelerate these efforts to have a tangible impact, and we hope that women will have more and better jobs through these policies and practices. This conference will be a major kick-start to this process” he added.
The past three decades in Iraq have been characterized by wars, conflicts, violence, sanctions and civil strife. In this context Iraqi women have had to bear a heavy burden. One in ten Iraqi households is female-led and 90% of these women are widows. Unemployment among Iraqi women remains one of the highest in the Arab region. Only one in every ten women is employed or actively seeking work.
“This conference aimed to address key issues hindering women’s participation in the Iraqi economy and identify potential sustainable and inclusive solutions through public policies and innovative business models” said Jacqueline Badcock, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Iraq. “Without including women a country will never be able to have a strong economy, a key to its development” she added.
The private sector actively participated in the conference, expressing support to women’s empowerment as part of the commitment to the United Nations Global Compact principles of corporate responsibility. “We are ready to help implement successful practices of women’s integration in sustainable development in line with the Rio+20 outcomes” said Mr. Hameed Hilli, Iraq UNGC Network Representative.
The Women’s Empowerment Principles, a set of international guidelines formulated by the UN Global Compact and UN-Women, were also launched to offer guidance to private sector on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.
During the conference, UNDP Iraq launched a report on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Iraq, Integrating Women in the Iraqi Economy. The report describes the challenges to women’s participation in the Iraqi economy and provides case studies of Iraqi women who have managed to break barriers and undertake business ventures in very difficult circumstances.
A key outcome of the conference was an announcement from the Banking Association (representing nine banks) that special facilities would be established to provide soft loans up to 250,000 US$ for women entrepreneurs.
A committee to follow up on implementation of the conference’s outcomes was established with representation from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, UNDP and civil society organizations.