International Women’s Day: Calls for Greater Representation in Decision-Making as Iraqi Women Continue to Suffer from the Crisis

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Baghdad, Iraq, 07 March 2016 - UN Women, in partnership with the Women Parliamentary Committee, organized a high-level event today at the Council of Representatives (Parliament) in Baghdad to mark International Women’s Day.

The event comes at a particularly difficult time for Iraqi women and girls, who continue to be subject to gross human rights violations and heightened vulnerability related to the rise in violent extremism and mass displacement. No woman or girl is entirely free of the risk of being subjected to insecurity, human rights abuses, including forced marriage and other forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence. The difficult reality facing Iraqi women today is compounded by entrenched structural discrimination and barriers that lie at the heart of gender inequality.

Opening the event, Deputy Speaker of the Council of Representatives Mr. Aram Shiekh Mohammad saluted Iraqi Women on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. “We celebrate Iraqi women and recognize their leadership and political role and sacrifices in shaping the new Iraq”.

The chairwoman of the Women Parliamentary Committee, Ms. Rihab Al Aboud, emphasized the need for greater women involvement in decision-making processes and called “for strong representation of women in the new government”, Ms. Al Aboud stressed.

Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq for Political and Electoral Affairs, Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, cited the commitment of the Iraqi government and progress made in women representation in parliament and joined the call for a strong representation of women in the new government. “While we congratulate the Government on its achievement, women’s leadership continue to represent an untapped resource. We encourage the appropriate representation of women in the new technocratic Cabinet,” the DSRSG said.

The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. The United Nations observance on 8 March will reflect on how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.

UN Women briefed members of parliament on the centrality of gender equality for sustainable development and on UN Women’s response strategy in the country whereby the UN Women Iraq Representative, Ms. Hiba Qasas, reminded the audience that “the Sustainable Development, peace and security cannot be achieved if women and girls continue to be discriminated against and are left behind”.

Ms. Qasas also called for the effective leadership of the legislative branch of the government in making the desired change through the elimination of discriminatory laws, reiterating that “there must be a commitment at the national level for the removal of discriminatory laws, amendment of existing laws and enactment of new laws that promote equality.”

Ms. Al Aboud provided a reading of the humanitarian challenges women face today in Iraq and called on the international community and humanitarian agencies to intensify efforts in support of women and girls and to engage with the women parliamentary committee as well as for the creation of a national women machinery and strong representation in the government.

In the context of the humanitarian crisis, Ms. Qasas also stressed the urgency to respond to the immediate needs of displaced women and girls and provide them with targeted livelihood and protection support particularly in the newly liberated areas, and briefed on UN Women’s programmes to this end. Ms. Qasas also urged those in presence to support the leadership role of women and support leverage their voices in national reconciliation and countering extremism and to support the creation of a national women machinery to replace the abolished women ministry.