During a recent emergency mission near eastern Mosul, where military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have destroyed formerly thriving communities, UN Women distributed urgent necessity kits containing basic provisions for families and feminine hygiene products to 144 families who have fled the Mosul conflict, and now live in IDP camps.
The mission, supported through generous funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), also aimed to gather and amplify the voices of women and girls who have been silenced and restricted to their homes for more than two years under ISIL rule in Mosul.
Since the military operations to retake Mosul from ISIL started in October 2016, the humanitarian crisis has deepened, with more than 72,000 individuals displaced according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and 1.2 million more expected to be displaced as the operations continue.
An estimated half of the current and anticipated displaced persons from the Mosul operations are women, girls and female-headed households in need of urgent assistance, many of them survivors of sexual violence, forced child marriages and other human rights abuses. “I was a college professor in Mosul helping to educate the young minds of tomorrow, but when ISIL came everything changed,” said A’isha Hadeel, a former college professor who had recently fled Mosul.
“I taught my students freedom of thought, but during ISIL occupation, I was not free to express my ideas…I was not free to leave my house for two years,” she added. With Professor Hadeel were three female university students: Kawther Maha, aged 20, Saja Nasser, aged 22 and Basma Hussein, aged 23 years.
Prior to ISIL occupation of Mosul, Maha was in her second year of university, studying Agricultural Science, Nasser was in her third year studying Linguistics and Hussein was in her final year, studying Education and aspiring to become a professor. All of them dream of returning to a peaceful Mosul where they can contribute their skills and talents.
Other displaced women shared their stories—not only has the conflict interrupted the future of promising women and girls, but it has thwarted the political aspiration and leadership of women leaders who could be instrumental in building peace, security and cohesion within Iraq. For example, some talked about public executions of female parliamentarian candidates by ISIL in Mosul.
“UN Women has been advocating for the inclusion of women’s leadership and political participation in peace and security through the Women’s Peace and Security programme in order to counter violent extremism,” said UN Women Deputy Country Representative, Paulina Chiwangu.
“Through leadership training, capacity building workshops and cash-for-work programmes UN Women works to ensure that every woman and girl can lead productive and empowered lives,” she added.
To bring out the voices of internally displaced women from Mosul, UN Women will continue to share their stories and perspectives through its ongoing Voices for Dignity series. UN Women is seeking more funding to establish multipurpose listening centers in the camps for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and in host communities.
Note: All names of displaced women have been changed to protect their identities.