Saturday, February 11, 2006

Another Overlooked Story

Names have been changed, but everything else is as it was told to me:

When IIII trainer Fatima Al-Iraqiya arrived in the village of Al-Miyya, she was shocked by the audience that assembled for her two-day workshop. Attending her training entitled “Women’s Rights in the New Constitution” were two dozen men but not a single woman. The tribal leader who helped arranged the training, Sheikh Abu Al-Miyya, offered an explanation: In some villages, women attend these sorts of events. But Al-Miyya is more traditional, he explained, and women are expected to remain at home.

Located on the outskirts of Karbala, Al-Miyya numbers just over a thousand inhabitants. Agriculture forms the basis of the economy, and most of the land is used for date farming. Al-Iraqiya, one of the IIII trainers, targeted Al-Miyya as part of IIII efforts to reach as many women as possible, especially those in more remote areas.

Though she was disappointed, Al-Iraqiya knew that pleading with Sheikh Abu Al-Miyya to change his mind would be futile. She proceeded with her training, sticking to the material she had prepared and the activities she had planned. The first part of the workshop outlined the course and focused on defining the terms that she would use over the next two days. The men listened attentively as she continued through the lesson plan. After an hour, she gently posed a question, “Would it be all right if the men allowed their wives to attend the workshop?” There was plenty of space on the carpets where the participants sat.

Their answer was, “Yes.” The women would sit separately from the men, but they would be able to participate in the workshop. Al-Iraqiya asked that the group take a break and waited for the women to arrive. When the workshop resumed, there were more than 20 women. The following day, among the 45 participants, women outnumbered men.

For these women who worked as housewives, this was a unique experience. They were excited by the material that Al-Iraqiya presented. Using a course from the IIII-designed Women’s Advocacy curriculum, Al-Iraqiya covered all the international women’s agreements and how these related to the articles on women’s rights in the new constitution. Al-Iraqiya discussed the role that women’s advocacy groups could play in changing the position of women in Iraq and how the constitution supported this. After the lecture, two of the women asked if there was any way they too could work to encourage women’s rights. Al-Iraqiya connected the women to The Organization of Love and Prosperity, an IIII-partner CSO. The two women are now members.

IIII must overcome numerous obstacles as it works to develop capable women leaders and build a network of Civil Society Organizations that will continue to advocate for the rights of women. III is making significant progress on all fronts, including dismantling age-old perceptions about a woman’s role in society. Through training, forums, workshops, and awareness-raising activities, III is succeeding case by case and village by village.


Post a Comment

<< Home