In an initiative supported by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) 40 Iraqi women from ISIS liberated provinces Anbar, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salahaddin, put together a comprehensive policy plan for reconstruction in Iraq.
Problems and Purpose:
There was little or no involvement of women in designing, leading, or staffing the initiatives of reconstruction in Iraq after the defeat of the Islamic state (ISIS). The National Democratic Institute (NDI) brought together 40 Iraqi peace activists through a program called #Her Role: Inclusive Reconciliation, Lasting Peace. This program was designed in order to provide a collaborative space where these women could work together to increase women’s access in the decision making process of Iraq and promote a “gender-sensitive national reconciliation plan” . The leaders of the movement did so because they believed that with an involvement of women in the efforts to reconcile Iraq these efforts would be more sustainable and have lasting effects for the state of Iraq.
Background History and Context:
During the rule of ISIS , beginning in 2014, in many areas of Iraq and Syria women and girls were objectified and treated as though they were not human. Women and girls who were non-Muslim were enslaved, molested and abused, and women who were Muslim were abused and their movements were extremely restricted . Once the areas were liberated and ISIS lost 95 percent of their control in December of 2017 , the National Democratic Institute wanted to provide these women with the opportunity to be engaged in the reconstruction of Iraq and also be given the opportunity to collaborate with other women.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities:
The project was organized by the National Democratic Institute and funded by the Government of Canada through a program called Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOP).
Participant Recruitment and Selection:
The process of participant recruitment was completed by the National Democratic Institute where 40 women peace activists and four civil society organizations were selected. These individuals were specifically selected from the provinces, liberated from ISIS, of Anbar, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salahaddin through targeted selection.
Methods and Tools Used:
In the beginning phase of the program participants were given the opportunity to learn how to create and implement initiatives for peacebuilding within their communities. They initially began by learning “key conflict transformation techniques, such as active listening, understanding others, and negotiation and facilitation skills” . The program wants to build up the participant’s empathy in an effort to make them more successful in activist and peacebuilding work.
Once the women’s personas were built up by attending workshops  they then drafted a comprehensive policy plan as a group that they presented at the Women’s Peacebuilding Symposium with political leaders and engaged citizens in attendance.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation:
During the initial phases of the project in the Fall of 2017, the National Democratic Institute worked with the 40 women to assist them in creating a public profile that would withstand the criticisms of mass groups who did not believe that women had a place in government. Through the National Democratic Institute these women were provided with a space where they were able to openly engage with other women, which many of them had never done, to share their thoughts and stories. They learned conflict transformation and facilitation techniques during training workshops, to utilize in the discussions they had as a group as well as in the future . The skills and space allowed the women to participate in open and honest dialogue with each other in an effort to urge the government of Iraq and other communities to engage women in Iraq reconciliation efforts.
In the other phase of the project they presented a comprehensive policy plan with a “step by step, research-based strategy on how to implement it” . And through the negotiation and facilitation techniques learned these women were able to become advisors on reconciliation in Iraq. They then presented these findings at the Women’s Peacebuilding Symposium in December of 2018 in Kirkuk, Iraq with over 200 individuals which included public citizens, as well as individuals from government and global organizations .
The events and information pertaining to the event are limited and have very little news coverage outside of the National Democratic Institute. They do have some social media coverage which has been published by NDI as well with the hashtag #HerRole .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects:
After the trainings, many of the women have reached out and held over 880 meetings with decision makers and leaders and generated a growing citizen support with approximately 7,400 citizens. While there have not been any specific outcomes from the organization of these women outside of the reconciliation plan that was presented, they anticipate there to be an increase in involvement of women in reconciliation efforts. They have sparked a conversation about women’s involvement in reconstruction and politics beyond that.
On a more individual level, the women involved in the training program were able to build up their interpersonal and citizen-leading capabilities. They learned functions necessary for facilitating large groups as well as build up the social profiles to have a space in the political environment of Iraq .
The outcome of this process was an achievement of 1) increasing women’s access in the decision making process of Iraq; 2) promoting a gender-sensitive national reconciliation plan; 3) making the reconciliation plan’s effects more sustainable; and 4) making the reconciliation plan have lasting effects.
Analysis and Lessons Learned:
Through the National Democratic Institute program in Iraq 40 women were provided with the opportunity to build their skills in order to provide a more gender-sensitive national reconciliation plan and forge a more inclusive role in the Iraq government. The experiences that these women have faced, provides them with an opportunity to be key players in the reconciliation efforts of Iraq. According to NDI, the women who initially were filled with apprehension were able to overcome this through the facilitation techniques they learned at the NDI trainings to become women of “power and authority to drive change” .
 A Strategy for Peace in Iraq: A Gender-Sensitive National Reconciliation Platform (2019). Retrieved from https://www.ndi.org/publications/strategy-peace-iraq-gender-sensitive-national-reconciliation-platform.
 Glenn, C., Rowan, M., Caves, J., & Nada , G. (2019, April 30). Timeline: The rise, spread, and fall of the Islamic state. Retrieved from https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/timeline-the-rise-spread-and-fall-the-islamic-state
 Iraqi Women Lead Peace and Reconciliation Campaign, Bridging Sectarian Divides. (2019, January 17). Retrieved from https://www.ndi.org/our-stories/iraqi-women-lead-peace-and-reconciliation-campaign-bridging-sectarian-divides.
 Press Release - October 1, 2019, & Press Release - September 24, 2019. (2018, October 31). ISIS's Persecution of Women. Retrieved from https://www.counterextremism.com/content/isiss-persecution-women.
 Women are the Linchpins for Peace in Iraq (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ndi.org/our-stories/women-are-linchpins-peace-iraq
The first version of this case entry was written by Brittany Moody, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and then edited. The views expressed in the entry are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.