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Iraq: working to achieve a brighter future for women heading households

08-03-2012 News Release 12/48

Baghdad (ICRC) – Women who bear the burden of providing for their families on their own are among the most vulnerable people in Iraq.

On the occasion of International Women's Day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is calling on all those concerned to take further action to help these women meet their needs and those of their families and give them a chance of a brighter future..

"Women who have to maintain their households all by themselves – for example because their husbands have been killed, arrested or disabled, or have gone missing – suffer enormously and often face daunting difficulties," said Marta Pawlak, an ICRC delegate in Iraq. "Iraq's welfare allowance system is intended to help people like them. All too often, however, the administrative procedures are too complex for the women to handle. That's why the ICRC is currently helping 1,300 women who head households to register for this crucial social benefit."

Like many women who have lost a breadwinner, Chakria struggles with extremely harsh living conditions. Women like her often have to rely on the help of relatives, neighbours, communities and charities to cope with their needs. Some have to borrow money, sell what little they own, cut down on spending for education and health care, and, even worse, send their sons as young as 12 years old out to work.

"I can't afford to buy proper clothes and school items for my kids or to repair our roof, which is leaking. My three sons have to work at the market to help me feed the family," said Chakria, whose husband was killed in an explosion in 2003 and who has just been granted government social benefits. "I need more to provide for my seven children, but it's a big relief to have a monthly allowance."

"Among the women we have been helping to meet administrative requirements, 130 have now been integrated successfully into the State welfare allowance system," said Ms Pawlak. This allowance is vital for them. We hope to be able to help 4,700 more women by the end of the year."

Since 2008, the ICRC has been providing support for women heading households through various assistance programmes. It offers grants to those willing to set up small agricultural, trade, craft and service enterprises in order to become financially self-sufficient. The ICRC also advocates on their behalf to ensure they are provided with the social benefits they are entitled to.

For further information, please contact:
Claire Kaplun, ICRC Baghdad, tel: +964 780 91 31 626
For media requests in Arabic: ICRC Iraq, tel: +962 777 399 614