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An internatinoal lobby effort is underway to make sure that the needs of Iraqi women and girls are not forgotten in the rebuilding of their country.
The time to act is now. According to the Netherlands-based Women Peacemakers Program of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), women's participation is needed in the short term to help restore civil order, to open corridors for humanitarian aid and to rebuild and equip maternity hospitals and other health facilities.
Established five years ago, the Women Peacemakers Program is calling for women around the world to lobby their national governments to work internationally to ensure the establishment of a public office staffed with advocates to receive, document and investigate complaints regarding gender-related offences by both military and civilians.
Action is also needed to meet long-term equality objectives. According to Women Peacemakers Program Officer Shelley Anderson, the Iraqi parties favoured by the coalition forces as potential members in a transitional government are all male and there are no plans in place to advance women's political participation through rebuilding efforts.
Yet women have a history of involvement in Iraqi public life. Iraqi women have had the right to vote since 1980, although this political right has not been granted to women in other countries in the region. During the early 1990s, women held about 10 percent of seats in the Iraqi parliament--a figure close to the proportion of women in both the UK and US governments in the same period.
"Women are urged to lobby their governments to demand that any Iraqi advisory bodies formed towards the goal of planning a new government include a minimum of 30 percent of Iraqi women," says Anderson. This minimum target includes all posts in a transitional government, including public security, oil and industry, finance and banking, and the development of democratization initiatives. …