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Thursday, July 8, 2010

One Million Iraqi Widows and Counting

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The Iraqi government estimates about 100,000 women have lost their husbands in the U.S. invasion. With three decades of war, including the 1980-88 war with Iran and the Gulf War, a total of 1 million women are widows.

In 2008 the government set up the Directorate of Social Care for Women, but chief Nahdah Hameed claims it does not have enough funds to serve women beyond Baghdad. In addition the Directorate does not have the power to introduce reform and fight corruption in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which handles widows' cases.

Iraqi Widows Organization is a non-governmental organization that was established in 2004 to empower widows and raise their role in civil society. IWO provides education and job opportunities to women, as well as small loans so that widows may start their own businesses. The organization also looks to fight discrimination against women by informing them of their rights and supporting them in their role in creating the new constitution for the "New Iraq."

Still, being the sole breadwinner of the family pushes many women into poverty, limiting their options. Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs commented, "A whole generation of Iraqis are at risk. Mothers are being forced to make tough choices, such as whether to pay for their children to go to school and receive health care, or to pay for private power and water services. These are choices no mother should have to make. And they are not only threatening individual families, they are also threatening the future of Iraq itself."

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