The Remarkable Resilience of Iraqi Women


Zeina, a 30-year-old divorcee who fled for safety when Mosul in Sinjar district was captured by the forces of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Zeina found herself in Kabarto One camp in Duhok governate. 

“I have no children and was living with my husband - a man who was constantly abusing and hurting me,” Zeina explained, “It was affecting my mental and physical health, so I left.” Zeina also had difficulty within her own family when her mother died, and her father remarried. “My situation at home was complicated. My father took another wife and I felt more psychological pressure. Then my father died and our financial situation worsened.” 

Zeina wanted to work to support herself and help the younger members of the family. One day by chance, she met the project lawyer from the Baghdad Women Association (BWA), who was on a field visit. The lawyer realized that Zeina was under great stress which was compounded by her financial situation so referred her for psychosocial support with the BWA.

In the words of Zeina

“I had an interview with the project staff and was accepted into the cash-for-work activity,” she explained. “Once I began working, I became more self-reliant and was able to support my family. Being able to provide the basic needs for my family and contribute to society has helped me greatly. My self-esteem improved and so did my mental health.” As Zeina’s confidence grew so did her ability to form relationships with female colleagues who were also taking part in the cash-for-work project supported by UNWomen. “We speak to each other, share our stories and support each other,” she continued. “I realized I am not alone in this situation, and this has made me think about other women who were in a similar situation and are still struggling because they still didn’t realize that they can get help. I am a better mother now and a passionate advocate to end violence against women in our society.”

Zeina believes that the assistance from BWA and UN Women changed her path and provided her with the strength to be self-dependent.