It has been well documented that the majority of those who experience violence during conflict are women, girls, and children. On 10 December, UNDP Iraq and UN Women led a workshop in Baghdad to review national policies on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in times of conflict. Attendees included representatives from the Iraqi government, local government offices, Civil Society Organizations, and academic institutions. 

Passionate and insightful discussion focused on how both the government and Civil Society Organizations in Iraq can contribute more meaningfully to support women who have experienced SGBV in Iraq, a nation recovering from years of divisive conflict.

Participation from women leaders representing various arenas helped to gauge the current situation in Iraq regarding the laws and policies on SGBV protection, the rights of survivors, and gender equality, to ensure they are in line with international laws and are not discriminatory. The government representatives discussed how the Women Empowerment Directorate is working to address issues surrounding SGBV.


Workshop participants engage in group discussion.


Key topics addressed also included the issues currently facing women in Iraq, and factors that would assist in evolving the landscape to better support women who have experienced, or are experiencing, SGBV. “Challenges facing women in Iraq include customs and traditions and the fact that the environment in Iraq is not conducive to discussing issues related to SGBV. There are no accurate statistics or data upon which we can develop plans and programs that prevent violence and there is a lack of planning and coordination among actors. Finally, weak commitments and implementation of violence-related laws are an issue.” - Fatima Al-Bahadly, founder of Iraqi Al-Firdaws Society. 

A participant presents her group discussion outcome.


“The Coexistence and Community Peace Committee called for a review of the situation of women in Iraq in terms of SGBV during conflict because there has been no study like this before. The Iraqi Government is working on reviewing the GBV strategy and this study will help with that.

Additionally, the upcoming establishment of a Supreme Council of Women will enable women in Iraq to play a more critical role in society.”” – Dr. Yousra Karim Mohsen, General Director of the Women Empowerment Directorate, Council of Ministers Secretariat.


Dr. Yousra Karim, G.D. of the Women Empowerment Directorate, Council of Ministers Secretariat.


Methods and mechanisms for empowering women were a focus, and workshop attendees discussed how women can be encouraged to step up and take on leadership roles within Iraqi society.


“My message for Iraqi women is for them to work on becoming leaders. This does not mean only in politics. I am referring to social and economic leadership - leadership roles within the community and family.” -Eman Abdulrahman, Director of the Women Leadership Institute. 

The final assessment on national SGBV policies in Iraq will be released in Q1 2021 and was made possible thanks to generous support from the Government of Denmark.


Equod Hussain Salman, population policy and human development expert.

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