Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Offers of aid raise hopes Iraqi women will benefit
Key minister reverses her threat to quit By Sinan Salaheddin Associated Press Tuesday, March 10, 2009 Baghdad —- Iraq’s state minister for women’s affairs said Monday she plans to withdraw her resignation after receiving pledges from aid organizations to help improve women’s lives. Nawal al-Samarraie quit last month to protest the lack of resources for women, accusing the government of not making women’s needs a priority. But the Sunni activist decided to return to her job after getting pledges for funds and support from international organizations. She also said more than 50 Iraqi women have offered to volunteer to implement her ministry’s plans. Al-Samarraie said she will present her request to be reinstated today to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office. It was unclear whether he would accept her request. Women face overwhelming hardships in Iraq, with hundreds of thousands left poor or widowed by more than three decades of war. Oxfam, a Britain based charity, said Sunday the situation has worsened for many Iraqi women since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion despite security gains over the past year and a half. A study released by the group showed the overwhelming majority of women interviewed did not have sufficient access to electricity or clean drinking water, and 75 percent of the widows were not receiving the government aid they are owed. All Iraqis have undergone difficulties, but women face the additional danger of being sidelined and unable to get jobs in a male-dominated society. Widows in Iraq, for example, traditionally move in with their extended families, but many families find it increasingly difficult to care for them and their children. In addition to homelessness, women also face domestic violence and random detention when they are caught up in U.S.-Iraqi military sweeps, Oxfam said. In a second study, the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization said 19 percent of Iraqi women suffer mental disorders of some kind, with depression, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety among the most common. Among those who had mental health issues, nearly 70 percent said they had contemplated suicide, the study said. The New York Times contributed to this article.