Coalition Member Spotlight: Women for Women International

In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which falls on November 25, the Hilton Prize Coalition shines a spotlight on 2006 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureate, Women for Women International, and the work they are doing today with women who have been displaced by war and conflict in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and around the world.

Yazidi women attend a training session supported by WfWI in Khanke, Kurdistan. These weekly sessions include English, literacy, women’s justice and gender-based violence training. (Photo credit: Alison Baskerville/WfWI 2016)

For nearly 25 years, Women for Women International (WfWI) has worked in some of the toughest places in the world to serve the most impoverished and marginalized women. In 2015 in the light of crisis in Iraq and Syria, we began working with local partners in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to serve Yezidi survivors of violence as well as other displaced Iraqi women and Syrian refugee women. Through our local partners, we’ve already been able to serve more than 500 women and provide them with socio-economic empowerment trainings, psychosocial services and trauma counseling, as well as referrals for legal aid. Women who participate in our program learn valuable vocational and business skills and about their health and rights, and begin healing from the emotional trauma of war and violence.

Four million refugees and displaced people are struggling to rebuild their lives in Iraq. Displaced for months or years, women who have been forced out of their homes by conflict face particular challenges that threaten their basic security, economic well-being, and even survival. The needs of women refugees in KRI are immense. In addition to facing violence and discrimination due to being women and refugees, many face severe poverty. Especially after losing male family members to conflict, more women are becoming heads of households—but without skills and opportunities for employment, they struggle to pay for their families’ needs. In fact, one in four of all the refugee households in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon is headed by women, and only one in five holds paid jobs and one in five has support from other relatives. One third say they don’t have enough to eat. At WfWI, we know that we need to invest more in refugee women and make sure that their particular needs are met. To do this, earlier this year, we opened a dedicated country office in KRI. Through our country office we hope to serve thousands of more refugee and displaced women in the coming years.

Beyond the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, since 1993, WfWI has served more than 462,000 women survivors of war in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan. With a long-term vision for sustainable change and development, WfWI works with the most marginalized and socially-excluded women so they have the skills, networks, and tools they need to rebuild their lives, communities, and nations. Through Women for Women International’s comprehensive 12-month program, women learn about their rights and health, and gain key life, vocational, and business skills to access livelihoods and break free from trauma and poverty. In 2006, we proudly received the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize for our transformative work with women around the world.

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