Women’s issues have been under the spotlight throughout Iraq, especially since the liberation of the country from the hands of ISIS. The disintegration of the social fabric of communities across the country, the trauma of violence and displacement, and conservative mentalities with regards to the place of women in society have had negative impacts, such as the rise in suicides among women. A campaign has been launched in Kirkuk to raise awareness about this issue.
Figures taken from the Azadi hospital show that 20 times more women are committing suicide in the whole province of Kirkuk in comparison to men. This is in stark contrast to the national average, which shows that 3 times more women than men are committing suicide.
Activists lay the blame on the increase in women’s suicides in Kirkuk Province on the dire security and economic situation over the past few years, as well as the huge patterns of displacement caused by ISIS rule and the clashes that ensued against the terrorist group during the Iraqi Army’s liberation efforts.
The awareness campaign was launched on the streets of Kirkuk and encompassed the variety of ethnic groups within the province, including Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens. Women’s suicide is an issue that touches all social and ethnic groups in the province.
The campaign will extend to schools as organisers are intent on educating the younger generation so that they may become aware of the factors, circumstances and attitudes that pressure women into attempting or committing suicide.
Several other initiatives concerning women’s issues have been launched throughout Iraq since the demise of ISIS in the country. In Nineveh, the Masallah Organisation is undertaking a number of projects that tackle violence against women. They have organised educational activities to inform the local population about women’s rights and gender-based discrimination at the family level.
Thousands of women have been left to fend for themselves in Iraq as their husbands and male relatives passed away during the conflict against ISIS. In Fallujah, local organisations took the initiative to provide humanitarian aid, although more is needed to help replace the family networks that used to support such women.
There are other initiatives that aim to empower women on a social level, including the ‘Coexistence’ project that was launched by the International Centre for Social Peace in Baghdad. The purpose of this project is to train Iraqi female bloggers to optimise their use of social media to spread message of peace and coexistence among Iraq’s fragmented communities. Through such projects, women improve their practical skills and learn to play significant roles in their communities.