As the Iraqi people continue to acclimate to democracy, a fledgling association has emerged to support a segment of the population long oppressed by years of cultural indifference and educational inequality: single women.
Life in Iraq isn’t easy. But for single women over the age of 35, it can be all but impossible.
Our goal is to enable these women to develop themselves and allow them to learn skills and participate in professional workshops so they can find work and a source of income.
Looking to help adult women find an education and independence that has largely eluded them after years of oppression and cultural indifference, women’s advocate Amina Ali recently launched the organization Single Women.
Based in Sulaimaniyah in the Kurdistan region, the association is the first of its kind in the area “to help women over the age of 35 who haven’t married or had the chance to achieve any technical or professional skills,” according to a report by the news website Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse.
The Plight of Single Women
Ali told the Pulse that she has been working on the idea for the organization, now staffed by 15 female employees, since 2009.
She said single adult women in Iraq are “invisible” and face enormous challenges. Many suffer from years of physical and psychological abuse, Ali said, which she attributes to “societal notions that condemn and shame women who are not married by their thirties.”
There are no statistics detailing the number of single women in Iraq. However, it has been estimated that nearly a quarter of all Iraqi women are illiterate, according to the Pulse report. In most cases, Ali said, Iraqi women are expected to rely on their families and the men in their lives for support. Those who do work are often subject to sexual harassment and stereotypes that demean their skills and value, another article in the Pulse stated.
“A single woman’s day revolves around housework,” Ali told the Pulse. “She exerts her energy cleaning and cooking. Our goal is to enable these women to develop themselves and allow them to learn skills and participate in professional workshops so they can find work and a source of income.”
Ali said her association, funded in part by the Kurdistan Regional Government, will offer a range of financial and educational services for women, including life and professional skills coaching and training as well as monthly stipends to help its members achieve financial independence.
“So far, approximately 70 women have joined the organization and are receiving services,” Ali said. She hopes to expand its reach one day to provide resources specifically for divorced women and widows.