Introduction

The aim of these reports is to provide a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on women’s economic and political participation and on their social protection in Iraq.

1. Impact of COVID-19 on Women’s Economic Participation in Iraq

Although Iraq is one of the largest oil producers in the world with $83.3 billion in oil revenues in 2019, non-oil private sector activities are limited and highly informal.

Direct economic and social costs of regional conflicts and ISIS occupation are high, including a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The Government’s policy response to COVID-19 included general social assistance and some measures to address health and violence against women. However, existing global trackers do not show that the government has implemented any measures related to women’s economic security or unpaid care work.

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Recommendations:

● Provide low-cost financing programmes and increase stimulus funding to support women’s entrepreneurship.
● Launch assistance programmes such as temporary financial support for unemployed and informal workers.
● Expand the formal care economy to (a) ease the burden on women and allow them to engage in economic activities; and (b) create economic opportunities for women.

2. Impact of social protection policies responding to COVID-19
on gender equality in Iraq

Measures have been implemented to provide social protection to women such as granting paid vacation and reducing working days to a minimum.

There is a good level of awareness of the increased burdens COVID-19 has imposed on women, but this has not translated into policies and measures to alleviate burdens or protect women from the pandemic or threats to their social welfare.

Women’s participation in decision-making processes and policies pertaining to COVID-19 was nearly negli- gible at the highest level, and has improved a small amount, without exceeding 25 per cent, at lower levels.

The lack of disaggregated data poses a strong challenge to all stakeholders attempting to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on the Iraqi population.

Impact on women seems to have been greater:
• Extra workload at home;
• Fear of infection;
• Psychological pressures, anxiety about a family member falling ill and an increase in cases of domestic violence;
• Protection measures that fall on women's shoulders;
• Dealing with the presence of children and husbands at home.



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Recommendations:

● Introduce intersectionality into social protection measures (and all other gender-related policies) to serve all groups of women.
● Develop a strategic plan to respond to crises and address the gender implications of this pandemic which means:
(a) Including women and women's orga- nizations in developing response measures;
(b) Transforming unfair unpaid care work into a new inclusive care economy that works for all;
(c) Designing socio-economic plans with a deliberate focus on the lives and futures of women and girls; and
(d) Mainstreaming gender perspectives in this strategy.
● Ensure the continuation of basic health services provided to women and girls, as well as nutritional services for infants, children, girls and women in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

3. Impact of the Conflict and COVID-19 on Women’s Political Participation

Enabling factors for political participation of women

• Intensified and well-organized women’s activism in securing women’s rights;
• Male support for women’s rights.

Obstructing factors

• Weak electoral support by women for female candidates. Women’s participation in the 2018 parliamentary elections reached 50% in 14 governorates, but none of the candidates on the eighteen lists which included women got enough votes to reflect women’s electoral weight;
• The lack of political will to grant women a greater role in the political and peacebuilding processes;
• Unconstitutional discrimination embodied in some laws, in particular the Penal Code.

Negative impacts of the conflict and the pandemic: threats and obstacles

• Threats to personal safety;
• Threats to livelihood and survival;
• Minimal representation of women in successive governments;
• Gender norms and traditions.

Positive impact of the conflict and the pandemic and potential opportunities

• Changes in women’s self-perception and increased self-confidence;
• Increased role of women in mediation;
• Increased awareness of the need for legal and security protection for women;
• Increased interest by women in joining security forces and other fields;
• Shift to humanitarian aid and awareness raising.



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Recommendations:

To increase women’s engagement in responding to COVID-19 pandemic

● Engage women at the national and governorate levels in drafting COVID-19 related policies;
● Raise public awareness of the role played by women and youth in responding to the pandemic;
● Provide governmental and international support for women’s organizations working with internally displaced persons;
● Support the extension of the Women Advisory Boards in Iraq project and/or similar projects to all regions of Iraq.

To increase meaningful participation by women in the national reconciliation and peacebuilding processes

● Ensure women’s representation in all reconciliation, peacemaking and building processes;
● Require a quota for women in government and top public positions;
● Ensure allocation of funds to implement the Iraqi National Action Plan (INAP) for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the National Women’s Strategy;
● Provide national women’s agencies with the necessary authorities and financial and decision-making independence to increase their effectiveness;
● Train women politicians on how to demand their rights within their parties;
● Train and support women candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections, especially independent women candidates;
● Issue a code of conduct for the security forces on dealing with women candidates and human rights activists.

To sustain women’s participation in crisis response and engagement in peace-building

● End prevalent corruption, adopt policies that encourage investment and job creation in all regions and rehabilitate infrastructure;
● Remove discrimination against women from the Constitution and laws;
● Make education compulsory as well as free;
● Mainstream the consideration of gender in all government policies and programmes;
● Introduce human and women’s rights courses in school curricula and trainings for judges and security forces and make human rights courses compulsory for all university specializations;
● Implement a national poverty alleviation programme and graduation from poverty programmes in all regions;
● Train security forces on how to deal with cases of domestic violence and gender-based violence;
● Implement nationwide literacy and computer literacy programmes and programmes aimed at improving women’s legal literacy;
● Increase the number of women in the security forces and make police stations gender sensitive;
● Train potential young female and male leaders;
● Coordinate and cooperate with donors to ensure effective use of available resources.


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7. PREVIOUS CONFERENCES

● Sixth MoU Conference: Monterey, USA, 2019 pdf report

● Fifth MoU Conference: New York, USA, 2017 pdf report

● Fourth MoU Conference: St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, 2015 pdf report

● Third MoU Conference: Shanghai, China, 2013 pdf report

● Second MoU Conference: Mons, Belgium, 2012 pdf report

● First MoU Conference: Salamanca, Spain, 2011 pdf report

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