Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategies: The Case of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

November 28, 2021

The University of Kurdistan Hewlêr (UKH) is delighted to announce the successful completion of the conference titled “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategies: The Case of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq” on Sunday 28 November 2021 in Erbil.

The conference was organized in partnership between UKH, Salahaddin University – Erbil, (SUE), University of Sulaimani (UoS) and University of Duhok (UoD).

The Conference aimed to provide a platform to exchange ideas and experiences on gender related achievements and issues in the Kurdistan Region, increase public awareness on women’s rights and gender equality and bring together regional, national and international forces to better combat gender based violence in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and other global crises. It is also with great pleasure we announce that four public universities (UKH, SUE, UoS, and UoD) have unified their efforts, expertise and knowledge to contribute to tackling gender related issues in the region.  Additionally, the conference aimed to help remove systematic barriers that hinder women’s equal participation in all areas of life, private and public and finally mark the Kurdistan Regional Government policies and legislations.

The conference was attended by his Excellency Nechirvan Barznai, President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Her Excellency Dr. Rezaw Faiq, Speaker of the Parliament of Kurdistan – Iraq and His Excellency Qubad Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and each were keynote speakers of the conference.

UKH President Bill Rammell opened the conference thanking presidents of the three collaborating universities for their commitment to the success of the conference. 

Bill Rammell who is a former UK Minister of Higher Education gave an overview on how the position of women has been changing over the years in every aspect of life “from equal pay to efforts to tackle domestic violence” he said. 

Rammell then hailed efforts made by President Nechirvan Barzani to improve the status of women in the region. “I would like to pay my tribute to the actions of the Prime Minister and now the President, Nechirvan Barzani – the founder of our university” he said, referring to the former prime minister’s legislative, cultural and political action to reduce the scale of female genital mutation in collaboration with other parties and religious leaders. 

In his keynote speech, President Nechirvan Barzani thanked the four universities for organizing the conference and called for further cooperation between other universities in the region. On his vision on gender based violence, he said “I reiterate: We support all efforts and struggles of women to realize their rights and will support and join their battle. This will be our never-ending strategy and agenda.”

President Nechirvan Barzani also shed the light on the difference social, religious, political and systematic aspects of gender based violence. “Our objective is to found a society in which men and women are equally enjoying the opportunities that come their ways; that they enjoy equal rights; and that they can fulfill their responsibilities equally in a way that both genders are equally offered the opportunity to take part in the economy, and in decision making, in order to realize their own wishes and address their own needs.” He continued.

Speaker Rewaz Faiq highlighted the legislations and amendments to the old laws related to women and gender based violence. She also voiced her concern regarding an “increase” in the incidents of gender based violence, as well as “new ways of violence and harassment result of technology developments and the sharp increase of users of technology” she said.  

Other keynote speakers were Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Head of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Mark Bryson-Richardson the UK Ambassador to Iraq and Yanna Hormova, Secretary General for Demography and Family Policy and Gender Equality in the Hellenic Republic.

The Conference included three important panels titled International Crises for Women in Post-ISIS Societies & Its Implications in the Kurdistan Region, Gender Equality: Milestones & Determinants, and Women’s Empowerment, Education, Constitution & Policy, respectively.

The first panel discussed the current status of women in the communities living in the liberated areas previously controlled by the Islamic State (IS) by activists and specialists worked in refugee camps and in the affected areas.

Before the start of the second panel, Dr. Khanzad Ahmed, Secretary General of the Kurdistan Region’s High Council for Women’s A­ffairs delivered a key note speech.

Later, the second panel reviewed the milestones achieved in the first decade of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence campaign, announced and adopted by then Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in 2007. Speakers in this panel proposed solutions and advised policies in order to protect the achievements and tackle the new obstacles and threats, and improve the related regulations and policies.

The third panel focused on education, government policies and the role of the legislative branch in improving gender equality and removing the systematic barriers piled up for long years against achieving gender equality in the Kurdistan Region.

Before the closing remarks by Dr. Jawhar Fattah, President of SUE, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani delivered the concluding remarks and called for openness, better understanding and further collaboration to tackle one of the key issues of the world in general, and Kurdistan in particular, which is gender based violence.