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Iraqi women fight for gender equality

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Ten years ago, the US-led invasion of Iraq put an end to Saddam Hussein’s ruling. But for Iraqi women, the war did not bring liberation. Despite its recent opening to the west, Iraq remains a very conservative society with very traditional views on gender roles.

Despite its recent opening to the west, Iraq remains a very conservative society with very traditional views on gender roles. [Photo/CNTV]

In a society which takes a dim view of women in sport, these female players are pushing boundaries. With a championship match coming up they take their training seriously and insist they have as much right to be on the field as men do.

Faiza Jalal, Footballer, said, "Of course women should be equal. Even in the Koran it says woman should be equal in everything. I hope our society will evolve to allow women to do whatever they want to do the same way that men can."

A young woman’s dream that could become a reality. But it will take time. A decade after the war many say women’s rights in Iraq haven’t advanced. In fact, most say things are worse. Domestic violence, honor killings, even female genital mutilation, is still common.

This radio station broadcasts advice for women, letting them know, among other things, their legal rights. But organizers know change has to go deeper than the law.

Suzan Afef, Director, Women Empowerment Org., said, "We have to change the mentality of the community, of the law enforcers who implement the laws. This is a problem, most of the judges and investigators cannot accept the new laws so there is the rights... women, they have the rights but it is very difficult to reach the rights so this is our problem. We have to work on the mindset, behaviors, and attitudes and change the stereotype we have on women here."

Empowering women is the message behind this taxi company-set up by women, for women. But they’re finding it hard to operate in this still male-dominated society.

Sara Vaziri, PNK Taxi, said, "We started PNK Taxi with four cars, but one of the biggest problems here is that we cannot find good drivers here. Many women here can drive but their families don’t like them to be a taxi driver-their sons, their husbands, they don’t want them to be a taxi driver."

Gender equality and empowerment of women are of growing importance here. But even in Kurdistan the women admit they still have a long way to go.


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