Gender in Iraq

Speeches Shim

3 youth on bikes in Qaraqosh, Iraq
Maryanna (center) is one of four youth in Qaraqosh that started a project to improve girls' access to public spaces by learning how to ride a bike.

Advancing gender equality is at the core of USAID’s efforts to promote greater stability and prosperity, and support a more transparent and participatory democratic process in Iraq.


Iraqi women and girls have faced particular challenges stemming from years of conflict and displacement. They are also disproportionately burdened in the process of returning home and rebuilding their communities. Lack of appropriate legal frameworks and services, paired with conservative social norms, hinder many female survivors of abuse and family separation from being fully protected under Iraqi law. Investing in initiatives that promote gender equality have proven to create a strong and positive impact on economic growth, political stability, and social cohesion. Therefore, addressing these inequities will not only ensure greater participation and protection of women and girls in Iraqi society, but it will also contribute to combating fragility and fostering long-term peace and prosperity.  

USAID Response

Advancing gender equality is at the core of USAID’s efforts to promote greater stability and prosperity, and support a more transparent and participatory democratic process in Iraq.

Accessible & Safe Infrastructure

The USAID-supported Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) program is investing in infrastructure rehabilitation to keep communities safe and provide equitable access to all public resources. USAID gives a high priority to funding public works and light infrastructure projects that improve accessibility and safety for women, girls, and their families. Supported projects include rehabilitated women/girls educational and healthcare facilities as well as community and vocational centers. 

Furthermore, USAID’s Iraq Community Resilience Initiative (ICRI/Ta’afi) is equipping and furnishing public service providers -- such as community centers, schools, and government offices -- to improve the facilities, specifically for women and girls. Through its work, ICRI/Ta’afi has equipped the Bartella Women’s Department to expand social services for marginalized women, improved education conditions for girls through school rehabilitations in Ninewa and Anbar, and is rehabilitating a women’s center in Tal Leban that had been badly damaged by ISIS.

Gender-Sensitive Humanitarian Assistance

USAID helps to provide protection services, including survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) prevention and response, to vulnerable populations both in and out of camps across Iraq. This includes case management and individual and group psychosocial support provided by social workers and health staff. USAID also supports survivors and those at risk of SGBV by helping them access the care they need through the establishment of the Women and Girls Safe Spaces initiative, which provides a supportive space for women and girls to access life skills training and health and safety information. During COVID-19, many of these resources have become virtual.

Support to Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence 

USAID is partnering with community leaders (tribal, religious, etc.), non-governmental organizations, and the humanitarian community to provide life-saving, immediate, and long-term services to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including medical and psychosocial support, legal assistance, livelihood support, vocational and technical training, and community outreach and awareness campaigns.[1] USAID also provides support by funding the Smile of Hope Torture Treatment Center[2] and helping ISIS survivors build cases against their perpetrators. 

Gender-Sensitive and Survivor-Centered Legislation and Advocacy

USAID is also supporting national and regional efforts to address domestic violence in Iraq and the gaps in legal protection for survivors of SGBV. By working together with decision makers and civil society organizations, USAID is helping to ensure the adoption and application of legislation that reflects intentional norms and standards around preventing SGBV. Furthermore, through five innovative pilot programs, USAID built the capacity of local partners based in minority communities targeted by ISIS to promote, gender-sensitive and client and survivor-centered legal advocacy, negotiation, and SGBV programming for women and adolescent girls.[3]

Greater Female Participation in Governance

USAID’s Iraq Governance and Performance Accountability (IGPA/Takamul) project is supporting greater female participation in governance through the establishment of Provincial Women’s Empowerment Directorates (PWED) throughout the country. The PWEDs are developing women’s civic leadership to advocate for improved service delivery for all citizens and promote greater diversity in local decision making. Additionally, USAID is working with federal and provincial government officials to introduce a gender-responsive budgeting approach, which will help the government of Iraq close severe gender gaps, fulfill gender-oriented commitments, and promote greater equality in allocating public funds.[4]

USAID also supported the establishment of Gender Units (GU) in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to promote greater gender equality and equal access to employment and services within the KRG governorates. Through training, USAID helped the GUs build a robust understanding of the impact of gender on peoples’ lives, to help the KRG develop gender-responsive policy and planning processes and advocacy efforts.[5]

Livelihood Development and Business Support 

USAID is promoting women-led small businesses in Iraq by providing training courses on business management, entrepreneurship, and marketing. USAID is also offering one-on-one business coaching to assist female owners develop plans on how to start their businesses and plan for long-term growth and financial independence. Finally, USAID is providing small business grants to help women rebuild and grow their businesses after conflict.[6]

USAID is boosting the livelihoods of women displaced by conflict and survivors of severe human rights abuses through vocational and educational training opportunities to help them build the skills they need to find a job or start their own business, become financially self-sufficient, and safely reintegrate in their areas of origin. When the COVID-19 pandemic, training opportunities were made virtual, which helped to make them increasingly accessible to women and other marginalized groups across the country.[7]

Achievements to Date

  • A Gender Policy and Mainstreaming Unit was established in Erbil in December 2020 with USAID support.
  • Over 5,000 women and girls have received mental health and psychosocial support services.
  • Over 4,000 women have participated in GBV, COVID, and other awareness sessions and peacebuilding activities.
  • Over 60 social workers, lawyers, and negotiators have been trained in gender-oriented, survivor-centered approaches through the USAID pilot program.
  • The Anti-Domestic Violence Legislation was passed with USAID support. USAID provided technical assistance to women’s committees at the Iraqi Council of Representatives and advocated for elevating the role of civil society organizations to actively contribute to developing the legislation.



[2] Funded through the Safe Return program implemented by Heartland Alliance International.

[3] Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response – Learning & Pilots (GRPR L&P)

[4] IGPA/Takamul

[5] IGPA/Takamul

[6] Relevant USAID-funded programs include: ICRI/Ta’afi, IGPA/Takamul, Shared Future, Top Mountain, and the Durable Communities and Economic Opportunities (DCEO) program.

[7] Relevant USAID-funded programs include: GRPR L&P, Safe Return, and Top Mountain.

Last updated: March 31, 2021

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