Monday, January 30, 2006

Women working for women's welfare

From Centcom comes this story about courageous Iraqi women making a difference in their country:
By Denise CalabriaGulf Region Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Baghdad, Iraq - While dirt-covered construction workers toil to rebuild Iraq’s decimated infrastructure, two Iraqi-born women more accustomed to “basic black with pearls”, are busy erecting a different type of foundation for their female counterparts in Iraq. Their work may take place out of the limelight, yet both are highly determined in their endeavors and dedicated to realizing their goals.

The first woman, Dr. Azhar Al-Shakhly leads the Iraqi State Ministry for Woman Affairs. The previous government established the office that, unlike most ministries, does not have a budget.
The other woman, Azza Humadi is the Women’s Issue Coordinator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division (GRD). Through the GRD’s work funded with Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) monies, many Iraqi women-owned businesses have been highly successful in the Iraq reconstruction efforts. Humadi contributes to this accomplishment and has assumed the lead in establishing an Iraqi women’s database with over 200 registered, women-owned businesses.

She also regularly meets with 250 Iraqi women’s organizations and other non-government offices to enhance women’s participation in Iraq reconstruction. Additionally, she hosted a series of three highly successful Contracting Outreach Conferences and two round-table meetings for women during 2005. The word quickly spread about the Outreach Conferences and participation rose from 120 at the first conference, to more than 400 at the last conference held.

“Traveling out to the Red Zone is not easy for me or anyone else, but you cannot expect people to support and believe in you if you don’t show them that you are willing to take risks for them. I do not believe I can remain within the International Zone if I want to network and develop strong relationships,” said Humadi.

“Seeing the Iraqi women face to face in their own environments makes a huge difference. They want to see how you look and think - and not only via email messages,” she said.

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