In the city of Fallujah, 140 women, mostly widows or from otherwise impoverished backgrounds, are working to rehabilitate schools and playgrounds that have been damaged during ISIS’ occupation as well as during the battles to liberate the city. The women belong to a civil society project that seeks to make women more visible and active in public life by employing them in a variety of areas, giving them the opportunity to learn craftsmanship and skills in the process.
The project was first piloted in the Khansa School for Girls where women were responsible for painting the buildings, planting flowers and repairing damaged parts. There were a few hiccups at the beginning, as many of the women were unaccustomed to such work. However, the opportunity to create beautiful works of art for children in schools and the resulting sense of community soon saw the project the flourish, allowing the group to attend the reconstruction and restoration of numerous other facilities.
The project has received widespread praise from the people and civil society groups of Fallujah. Not only does the project aim to subvert the ideology of ISIS by given women a prominent and active role in society, but it also allows for a particularly vulnerable demographic within Iraqi society to earn a living. As a result of the war, many of these women have lost their male relatives, leaving them as the sole breadwinners in a society that is still very patriarchal.
The project is the latest in a series of civil society initiatives launched to help with the lagging reconstruction of Fallujah. Earlier in the year, another group worked together to help build the roofs and walls of many houses that were damaged during the fighting. Meanwhile, other programs have sought to provide students with additional classrooms so that they can keep up with their education despite the adverse conditions. All of these developments highlight the growing role of civil society efforts in Iraq, as well as the growing sense of civic responsibility.