Government of Iraq, Kurdistan Regional Government, UN, and Humanitarian Partners Launch the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence at Let’s Talk Conference

UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls

28 November 2022; Erbil, Iraq – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)’s annual “Let’s Talk” conference this year brought together the UN, NGOs, policymakers, civil society, activists, academia, donors, and the private sector from across Iraq to unite and commit to ending Gender-based Violence (GBV).

The one-day conference was jointly hosted by UNFPA, UN Women, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and SEED Foundation, in coordination with the General Secretariate of the Council of Ministers of the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government together with Humanitarian and Governmental partners. The conference took place with the generous support of international donors: the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, and KOICA.

Marking the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence (GBV), the co-hosts sent a strong message of collective action to end all forms of GBV and advocate for women’s empowerment and freedom to exercise their rights– ensuring that “No One is Left Behind.”

The event featured three high-level panels exploring the role of youth, activists, government, international partners, and, importantly, men in achieving gender equality and ending violence against women and girls in Iraq.

The event opened with video remarks from Ghulam Mohammad Isaczai, Deputy Special Representative, Resident Coordinator, and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, who reminded us of the core intention of the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV initiative. “The eradication of GBV is a collective responsibility. We call on everyone to respond to the alarm raised by women and girls and take firm actions to end the violence. Prevention of violence is the responsibility of each one of us,” said Mr. Isaczai.

The first panel, moderated by SEED Foundation President, Sherri Kraham Talabany, featured panelists Kwestan Mohammed Abdulla, the Kurdistan Regional Government Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hanaa Edwar, a women’s rights activist, co-founder of Iraqi Al-Amal Association, and Alina L. Romanowski, Ambassador of the United States of America to Iraq to discuss the role of critical actors in driving forward gender equality in Iraq. “Thank you to all the men in the room today; we couldn’t end GBV without your support,” highlighted Ambassador Romanowski. “We also urge leadership in Baghdad and Erbil to make progress on reforms to promote the role of women and combat GBV. Gender equality drives prosperity and leads to good outcomes for all,” US Ambassador added.

On behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government, his excellency Ano Abdoka stated: “The Kurdistan Regional Government has always worked to eliminate violence against women and any form of gender-based discrimination, and on this day, we emphasize the same unwavering position of the government.”

The conference was followed by UNHCR’s Deputy Representative in Iraq, Nicol Epting, presenting the Middle East North Africa NANSEN Award for Refugees to Dr Nagham Hasan for her remarkable work on Yazidi women survivors. She was awarded the prize for physically and mentally helping Yazidi survivors and former ISIS captives for over six years. Dr Nagham Hasan, a gynecologist and founder of Hope Makers for Women Organization, retreated the importance of supporting gender-based violence victims and the displaced in Iraq, including Yazidi displaced persons, in her acceptance speech.

The second and third panels, focusing on community mobilization – particularly engaging men and boys and youth activism – featured a vibrant selection of civil society and NGO community panelists.

At the conclusion of the event, the private sector community – Korek Telecom, talabat, Careem, Al-Marmouka, and Click Iraq – pledged their commitment to empowering women and girls from across Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and supporting efforts to end GBV.

  • Korek Telecom pledged to build the capacity of 10 women from each of the 19 governorates of Iraq to develop their personal and career skills.
  • Talabat is committed to giving young people livelihood opportunities across Iraq from displaced communities.
  • Careem pledged to support safe travel for women needing critical protection services by providing discounts to survivors and those at risk of violence.
  • Al-Marmouka – Iraq Al-Hadeeth Company, the distributor of Always menstruation pads across Iraq, pledged to raise awareness on menstruation hygiene and provide six months’ worth of sanitary pads to 200 girls.
  • Click Iraq pledged to train ten young women in social media marketing to develop their skills and will support the trainees through their Job Studio portal to find jobs.

Let us come together and talk about ending gender-based violence to ensure a brighter future for all women in Iraq.