Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 13 Feb 2008

From MNF-I, Hawr Rajab Women’s Committee Holds Inaugural Meeting.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — Leaders of the newly-formed group sat before colleagues, government officials, community and Coalition leaders, but the audience they addressed was much larger; what some would even consider the backbone of their community.

The first meeting of Hawr Rajab’s Women’s Committee began Feb. 7 with a press conference at the Hawr Rajab boy’s school and a discussion of topics vital to the community’s welfare.

If the orators were nervous they did not show it as one-by-one they began to stump for their cause.

As a collective hush enveloped the audience, more than 200 women and young girls eagerly listened to what the guest speakers had to say.

Manar Fahdil Salman, a lawyer who grew up in Hawr Rajab, one of eight speakers, sat poised ready to take up the cause.

“This message is for the entire world. We need to show them that we have rules. We need to help side-by-side with the men to help our city be safe. This can’t be done with one hand, all of us need to help,” Salman said.

Salman and her fellow women’s group leaders expressed gratitude for the increased security in their respective regions and recognized the need to focus on the future.

“Women in this area are looking for training. They are looking for special skills and training to help them provide for their communities,” she said.

Salman said when al-Qaeda extremists moved into the region more than two years ago, many of the men in the community were killed. This resulted in a number of families being left without their traditional ‘head of household.’ It also forced widows to rely on extended family for basic needs.

With cooperation between Coalition forces, Sons of Iraq, Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi government officials, security in Hawr Rajab has become a much-welcomed reality.

In a show of support for the Women’s Committee, Rashid District Chairman Yaqoub Yousif Bekhaty said the committee was a good idea, one which would encourage women to participate in the political process.

Having seen examples of this forward thinking in other parts of Iraq, members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division’s embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team women’s affairs group brainstormed ways to get the ball rolling in Hawr Rajab. However, it was the initiative of local women that allowed the organization to take root.

As the newly-appointed women’s affairs representative, 2nd Lt. Cynthia Peters, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., currently attached to the 2nd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., said she enjoyed seeing the high turnout and has great hopes for the group’s future.

Peters, a native of Huntington, Ind., said she gained a better understanding of issues facing women in Hawr Rajab by attending the meeting.

While the Hawr Rajab Women’s Committee currently has no facility from which to work, its members are not discouraged. Instead they have found new support from their communities and are gaining their political voice.