UN CSW 63
Iraqi Women Building Peace and Security
Grace Initiative Global co-sponsors - High-Level UN Side Event
by Elizabeth Corredor
Ph.D. Candidate Rutgers University, Political Science
On Friday March 15, 2019, the UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW) sixty-third session, UN CSW 63featured a high-level event: “Iraqi Women at the Helm of Rebuilding, Peace and Stability” at UN Headquarters in New York. The co-sponsors for this unique and critical side event comprised: the Permanent Mission of Iraqto the UN, Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN, the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the UN-WomenIraq Country Office; and, the Grace Initiative Global. The panel exemplified Iraq’s laudable commitment for empowering women in peace-building - ensuring Iraq’s transformation to a sustainable peace and a more secure future.
Grace Initiative Global founder, Yvonne Lodico, opened the event with a quote from Nobel Peace Laureate: Nadia Muradwho stated during her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, “Women must be involved in building lasting peace among communities. With the voice and participation of women, we can make fundamental changes in our communities.” Ms. Lodico pointed out that this was especially profound in view of the tragic shooting of the mosque in New Zealand that took place on March 14. These attributes underscored the goals of this high-level event, which illuminates Iraq’s collective and holistic efforts to transcend the destruction and horror of violent extremists, by ensuring that women are a vital part of the peace-building efforts.
Speakers included: Mayor of Bagdad H.E. Ms. Thikra Alwash; Permanent Representative of Germany to the U.N. H.E. Ambassador Christopher Heusgen; Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs of the League of Arab States H.E. Sheikha Hessa Bint Khalifa Althani; Under Secretary Gender SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict H.E. Ms. Pramila Patten; Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq H.E. Ms. Hala Saleem; President of High Council of Women Affairs Ms. Bakhshan Zangana; Director General of Women Empowerment Dr. Ibtisam Ali. The resounding theme of the session was fostering women’s empowerment and addressing systemic discrimination to achieve sustainable peace and reconciliation.
Each speaker addressed issues related to women’s participation, protection, and prevention ensure their inclusion in peace building processes.
Despite the growing presence of women as government representatives in Iraq, women remain largely unrepresented in the peace process. The adoption of the Iraqi National Action Plan in accordance with UNSCR 1325 is a promising start and makes Iraqthe first Middle Eastern country to adopt a national action plan. Nonetheless, it remains a top priority to further recognize women not just as passive victims, but also as talented leaders and publicly recognized agents of change within their communities.
Iraqi women are some of the world’s most vulnerable people with regards to sexual violence, domestic violence, and systematic discrimination. The dire need to update Iraq’s laws to on sexual violence to meet international standards was emphasized, as was the fact that most, if not all, perpetrators of sexual violence in Iraq go unpunished. Session speakers stressed the need to update Iraqi law so that it meets the at least the minimal standards of international law. Such changes are
Required in order to eradicate the pervasive discrimination against women in Iraqi culture.
A final resounding message focused on the need to craft policy that focuses on the rebuilding of lives in addition to systems and infrastructure. A key priority is making vital medical and mental health services available for women and for the children born and raised in war. Additionally, economic empowerment opportunities promise to strengthen women’s positions within their communities. Ultimately, policies need to focus on realizing and building upon the capabilities of Iraqi women.
Lastly, H.E. Bhar Aluloom, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Iraq to the UN, closed the session, thanking all the speakers and emphasizing the utmost importance of women’s inclusion for sustainable peace and security for Iraq, and praising the international community’s support for this great fundamental goal.