Ban Najeeb is the Assistant Director of ‘Women Minorities Forum’ in Iraq . Here, she introduces the outline and objectives of their project on the role of minority women in peace building:
Our organization is a volunteer feminist organization. We began our work in 2016, and our goal was to serve and support women in general and minority women in particular, raising awareness on issues of women’s rights. In the future we also aim to be able to help empower them economically. Currently we’re working on raising awareness as part of an agenda of sustainable development. We have an ongoing project in Baadr, a Yazidi village, and another one in the Sharya compound, a refugee camp in Sinjar province. We’re trying to raise awareness not just among women, but men and women, which is why we asked that men also be present in our training workshops.
On the meaning of participatory work in the implementation of a project based on cooperation and support from multiple different bodies, such as the one undertaken between the Women Minorities Forum in cooperation with the municipality of Qaimqamiyat Talkif:
During our meetings, our goal was always to highlight the challenges faced by women working in different organizations, or in government sectors, or as part of volunteer teams. This was our role. The municipality of Talkif was very cooperative in providing support for women and young people, for the volunteer teams and the local organizations working in Talkif, and really in any sector where it was possible to offer help.
She clarifies her positive reflection on the role of civil society organizations in the project:
During every workshop we gave, everyone voiced the desire that the project continue, because time was limited. And everyone, whether governmental or non-governmental organizations, wanted the workshops to continue so that we could really discuss all the issues plaguing women, such as personal status laws, for example.
On the positives and negatives of the project:
Topping the list of negatives is what people said about the women trainers and activists. Things like: This is a married woman, how is she managing her time? How is she taking care of her husband? She doesn’t know anything! It’s unbelievable that I, a man, should be asked by the government to sit down and listen to a woman! And on and on.
As for the positives:
There were some areas we worked in where families refused to have their women participate in the workshop when they knew that it also included men. But we were able to use the fact that we were all women to our advantage. Like we would tell them: The trainer is a woman, and the instructor is a woman, and the one responsible for this thing is a woman, and then they’d be more inclined to accept.
As for the impact this project had on her personally:
It’s true that I teach at the National University in Duhok and so I’m used to getting up in front of a group of people to talk. But this was the first time that the group included men in high positions listening to me. This was really impactful to me, I was always waiting for how they would react to this little Christian woman coming to train them or listen to them.
On other effects left by the project:
The municipality chose to partner with us because they knew what our work was about, which is to rebuild the bonds of trust between minority groups and the other groups that make up this country.