Cross-posted from UN Women
To run as a political candidate in Iraq demands courage and determination – even more so for a woman. Fourteen candidates, including one woman, were murdered in the run-up to local elections held in April – the first elections to be run by the Iraqis themselves without any international help since 2003.
Maryam Abdulla, 31, was recently elected to the regional council in Kut, southern Iraq. She is proud of her success and pleased that training from UN Women helped her achieve more votes than predicted.
“The training provided by UN Women to us as women candidates was a good and positive step to broaden the women’s culture. We as women need to work more, especially in the south of Iraq where we have to break through the tribal layer. We need more training to be able to change people’s attitudes,” said Maryam, sounding sprightly and positive despite the obstacles she faced.
Maryam is one of approximately 300 women candidates from five governorates who were trained by the Iraq Foundation and their local partners in the run-up to the local elections in Iraq on 20 April. Supported by UN Women, the three- to five-day sessions covered issues like dealing with the press, how to put together a campaign, presentation techniques and self-management. All political parties were asked to nominate their women candidates for training, but not all did.
“Today women face more challenges. I’m always asked by other women how did I break through the tribal layer, my answer to them is it was possible through dialogue and improving myself to convince them that I understand women issues and I can be a leader,” said Maryam.
According to the UN’s Women in Iraq factsheet, women “represent one of the most vulnerable segments of the population and are generally more exposed to poverty and food insecurity as a result of lower overall income levels.”
Despite the large peak in violence in the run up to the elections, election day itself passed off without incident; approximately 50 per cent of the population turned out to vote, of which 40 per cent were women.