Cablegate: Embassy-Sponsored "Women for a Unified Iraq" Luncheon Draws

DE RUEHGB #1143 0921447
P 021447Z APR 07




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Embassy-sponsored "Women for a Unified Iraq" Luncheon Draws
Over 100 Activists

1.(U) SUMMARY: On March 25, the US and UK Embassies co-hosted a
luncheon to honor International Women's Day (March 8) and
International Women's History Month (March). Over 100 Iraqi
political and civil society leaders, both male and female, attended
the luncheon, which included speeches by Ambassador Khalilzad, UK
DCM Matthew Lodge, and Minister of State for Women's Affairs Fatin
Abd al-Rahman. USAID Director Bambi Arellano announced a PAS small
grant competition emphasizing projects focusing on educational and
economic development opportunities for women and children.
Attendees included parliamentarians, ministers, NGO leaders, local
government representatives and professional civil service employees.


(U) MAJ Angham Ahmed, the highest ranking woman in the Iraqi
military said the event was the first time she was able to reach out
to parliamentarians and other senior Iraqi officials. MAJ Angham,
in full military uniform, said that she was amazed by how interested
the ministers and CoR members were in her experiences and noted that
this hadn't been the case in the past. She left the event with
meetings set up the following week to further discuss her ideas
about recruitment of women and equal access to educational and
training opportunities in the military.

(U) Women's rights activist and Al-Amal NGO leader Hanaa Edwar said
that the NGO community is well aware that the international funding
for NGOs is "drying up." She thanked the Embassy for holding this
event, noting, "while the funds may be diminishing, it's good to see
that your support is not!" She said that the most positive aspect
of the gathering was the opportunity for NGOs to mix with government
officials, since "many government officials are still skeptical and
suspicious of NGOs." Edwar appealed for the international community
to host more such events, to continue to build trust between civil
society and government and to give NGOs important advocacy

(U) Salma Jabbo, head of the Widows Training and Rehabilitation
Center, said that the small grants program was especially helpful to
smaller groups and those who work on vocational training. "These
are programs that the international community just isn't funding now
- they focus on training, but not on developing vocations," she
said. She acknowledged that the grants were small and that she
would still need to seek additional funding even if awarded one, but
said that her organization is small enough that $25,000 could keep
it operating for three months, the length of time needed to complete
a full training course.

(U) Although post initially debated about the decision to include
both female and male participants, Ministry of Interior police
officer Saad Mean, formerly of the MOI IG office, was glad that men
were included on the guest list. He said, "there is still much to
do, but these kinds of events will help to build social and cultural
support for increased interaction between men and women who share
the same goal: improving the situation for Iraqi women."

(U) All participants were encouraged to visit a table set up by
Cultural Affairs where English and Arabic publications were
displayed and distributed. Most attendees left with an armload of
USG books, on topics from civic education to business English. One
government official told poloff that he would take the books to his
daughter, a high school student, to improve her English. Another
NGO leader, who looked to have at least two copies of each
publication, said that she would display them in the reception area
and staff room of her organization, and would look over the
materials to see what she could incorporate into her trainings.

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