resized-39uev.jpgTwo new reports have been released timed to International Women’s Day and they present a dire picture of the conditions of women in Iraq. For all the talk of improvements and security gains, the women of Iraq report that their lives are harder, poorer and more dangerous than ever before.

Oxfam’s report, In Her Own Words, is based on a survey done across Iraq in partnership with Al-Amal Association, an Iraqi women’s organization. In interviews with 1,700 women, they discovered a number of harrowing facts, including:

As compared with 2007 & 2006, more than 40% of respondents said their security situation worsened last year 55% had been a victim of violence since 2003; 22% of women had been victims of domestic violence; More than 30% had family members who died violently.

Some 45% of women said their income was worse in 2008 compared with 2007 and 2006,

Nearly 25% of women had no daily access to drinking water & half of those who did have daily access to water said it was not potable; 69% said access to water was worse or the same as it was in 2006 & 2007

One-third of respondents had electricity 3 hours or less per day; two-thirds had 6 hours or less; 80% said access to electricity was more difficult or the same as in 2007, 82% said the same in comparison to 2006 and 84% compared to 2003

Along with these statistics, In Her Own Words shares the voices of Iraqi women:

Amal
“There is no way that I can get hot water since the price for a bottle of gas has reached 20,000 Iraqi dinars which is the equivalent of my wages for 20 days of work. My house has no utilities… thankfully the owners of the factories nearby let us use their toilets. I bet an animal barn would look much better than our home. We are no longer treated as human beings; look at the state we are living in…. I want to be able to give my children cold and clean water to drink and not have to store our food in a suitcase. I want to be employed. I am exhausted but hope that I will never have to beg; our dignity is all we have left.”

— Amal supports four children and two grandchildren by selling bricks she finds at refuse
sites. They live in a makeshift home on government land and have no regular access to electricity and have no running water in their home. Because she has no electricity,
Amal uses an old suitcase as a refrigerator. The entire family has suffered from bouts of
food poisoning.

The ICRC has also issued a report on Iraqi women today – Iraqi Women In War. Here is just one of their tales:

Kurdistan, 35, Dohuk: "I live in a camp in Dohuk governorate with my 5 children. My husband has been detained since 2006. Luckily I have a job, packing soil in plastic bags for a local nursery. My daily wage is 7,000 IQD (6$), but it only covers a fraction of my family needs. I think all the time of ways to put food on the table. I sold my only traditional Kurdish dress for a gas canister last week. Sometimes I barter a bottle of cooking oil for fresh tomatoes. When my children ask me for more, I tell them ‘maybe tomorrow,’ in the hope they have forgotten by the next day. The youngest keeps asking about his father saying he wants to search his pockets for sweets when he returns from the souk, he thinks he is coming back with presents."

PDF’s of both reports are available online along with some amazing photographs of these women. Oxfam’s is here and ICRC’s is here.

Oxfam calls for a surge in support for the women of Iraq. It is the least we can do on this International Women’s Day.

Photo: Families wait for relief items donated by Iraki Red Crescent. The Red Crescent organised a donation of relief to refugee widows and orphans who fled after family members were killed. Source: GorillasGuides