The protracted conflict in Iraq with the Islamic State terrorist organisation has forced more than six million people to flee their homes since 2014. More than half of the displaced population – about 51 percent – are women and girls. As a result of the conflict, women and girls have been subjected to gross human rights abuses, including abductions, killings, trafficking, torture, forced marriage, and sexual and gender-based violence.
Despite government and other stakeholder efforts to address the country’s dire challenges, the rights of Iraqi women and girls continue to deteriorate because of serious institutional weaknesses and a difficult environment for peace, security and development. As extremist groups expand their influence, their territorial advances are paralleled by targeted attacks on women’s rights and basic freedoms – including their ability to move freely and engage in public life. This reality is compounded by entrenched structural discrimination in Iraq, where the situation of women is largely shaped by male religious authorities and the strict implementation of Islamic law.
Iraqi civil society organisations (CSOs) working on gender issues and humanitarian interventions are reacting vigorously to the country’s wide range of peace and security challenges. Recognising that peace and security cannot be realised without the participation of women in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, local CSOs in Iraq have formed the Alliance 1325, the aim of which is to broker the needs of women and girls and foster their implementation.
In Iraq, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) specifically focuses on two issues:
- Improving support for women CSOs to build upon existing strategies in order to create an enabling environment for the effective implementation of government commitments on women, peace and security;
- • Supporting local organisations fighting for displaced women and supporting women returnees.
Since November 2018, the WPHF has been supporting eight projects promoting the involvement of women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Most of these projects pursue a comprehensive approach by strengthening the nexus between peace and security, development and human rights, empowering women and girls as peacemakers and peacebuilders to promote peaceful coexistence and dialogue and thereby prevent extremism and violence, including gender-based violence. Collaboration with CSOs is placed at the fore here. The projects include training measures for women journalists, women’s organisations and governmental actors on conflict prevention and early warning systems, as well as efforts in raising awareness of peacebuilding in communities.
Germany is one of the largest funders of the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, contributing a total of € 4 million since 2019. As a member of the Funding Board, Germany, along with other Member States, UN agencies and civil society organisations, selects the projects to be funded.