Over 150 women active in local, regional and national politics participated in the National Multi-Party Women’s Conference hosted by NDI. The conference, held Nov. 12 to 15 at Dokan Lake, Iraq, included representatives of 33 political parties and 16 of 18 governorates. Training sessions were conducted on budget development and review, legislative drafting, and committee process.
One of the main goals of the conference was to reach agreement on a national women’s advocacy campaign plan. The participants agreed to focus on five key issues over the next six months: child welfare, citizenship, domestic violence, education, and travel rights. They developed specific solutions that would require implementing legislation, such as:
- Ensuring women’s constitutional right to pass citizenship directly to their children;
- Ensuring that women may travel freely throughout the country and obtain passports without the accompaniment or consent of a man;
- Increasing protections and resources for domestic violence victims and increasing punishments for offenders;
- Restoring food programs in schools, re-establishing and strengthening maternity leave provisions, offering affordable and reliable child care, providing affordable child health care, strengthening child labor laws, preparing legislation on trafficking and abduction; and
- Ensuring that women and girls have the same rights as men and boys to obtain an education.
The majority of the participants were members of the Iraq Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, an organization facilitated by NDI and comprised of a cross-section of women political party members. The Caucus seeks to develop and advocate for legislative action on issues that affect women. Since the group was established in Baghdad in March 2005, the Caucus has expanded to include members from political parties in the south, south central and northern regions as well as Kirkuk. Over the past nine months, these regional groups have been debating issues and developing solutions to women’s challenges in Iraq; the Baghdad caucus has been drafting a legislative advocacy agenda based on input from the regional groups.
Guest speakers at the conference included members of the Iraq Council of Representatives (CoR) - Izhar al-Sammrai from the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) and Layla Mohammed Kahraman (PUK) - as well as the manager of the women's affairs unit in the Council of Ministers of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), Susan Arif. Women members of the national government and the KRG also participated alongside members of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus in training sessions on negotiation skills, conflict resolution, campaign mobilization, leadership and team building.
In addition to the development of a national women’s advocacy campaign plan, the conference had five primary objectives:
- Provide an opportunity for caucus members from all areas to meet their political party counterparts from other regions and learn about the regional challenges and accomplishments of each caucus;
- Allow caucus members the opportunity to meet women members of the CoR and learn about the specific challenges associated with working inside government;
- Provide a forum for caucus members to explain to elected women the importance of consensus building across party lines to advance women’s issues, and to provide them with insight on how caucus members have overcome their differing backgrounds to accomplish common objectives;
- Provide skill building training for participants related to advocacy and lobbying; and
- Encourage women members of the CoR to begin a caucus of their own.
During the conference, elected representatives from each regional caucus developed a six-month, coordinated, national advocacy campaign plan that will include petition drives, letter writing and poster campaigns, development and distribution of public service announcements, press conferences, public demonstrations and lobbying activities. These campaigns are scheduled to begin in mid-December. NDI will provide follow-up consultations and continued skill building training. In addition, NDI will help organize an opportunity for selected regional caucus members to come to Baghdad to present their agenda to women CoR members.
Despite the remote location of the conference, the forum gained media coverage from the top four national independent television stations, Al Sharqia, Al Iraqiya, Al Hura and Samaria. It also received coverage from political party stations, as well as print and radio outlets.
Published on Nov. 28, 2006