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14. April 2008

Afghan woman, Nimruz © Wahida Mehrzad

Students Nimruz © Waheeda Mehrzad

Iraqi Widow and her kids © Rajaa al Khuazi

A widow and her four children

Iraqi children © Rajaa al Khuzai

Women without Borders projects ...

in Afghanistan und Iraq

The Women’s Center of Nimruz: A Window to the Life of Afghan Women

The province of Nimruz is located in southwest Afghanistan. “It is the only province in the entire country where girls can attend school and almost every woman is allowed to work. And Women Without Borders was instrumental in contributing to this development,” wrote Wahida Mehrzad, the director of the center, in her most recent report. She manages the project together with Huma Naseri, a young woman from Kabul. Meanwhile, however, the women’s center is being managed independently of the two women and their team.

Underage girls are still married to men as old as 50 or 60, women know too little about their rights, and there is still so much to do. But it is wonderful to see hundreds of girls living in this war-torn city poor into school each morning,” described Wahida Mehrzad.

Of the offered classes, the computer course is the most popular. There are presently two computer classes with a total of 30 pupils. The English course is also enthusiastically attended: 38 women and girls are currently learning the language. The participants often use their computers during English class, giving them the chance to simultaneously improve their PC skills. In cooperation with the Department of Education, a new literacy course was also initiated at two locations where 55 women are currently learning to read and write.

The center holds weekly meetings during which women can consult social workers on a variety of subjects including health, hygiene and nutrition as well as women’s rights and education; these meetings have become a central part of the lives of the participating women.

The first three years of this initiative were funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Consumer Protection. We would further like to thank the VIC Women’s Group for the financial support.

Iraqi Widows: Between Hope and Trauma

Dr. Rajaa al Khuzai, an Iraqi doctor, politician and activist, launched the Iraqi Widows Organization in 2004. She has been a co-operational partner of Women Without Borders since 2006.

She currently looks after 105 widows in Bagdad, Iraq and Amman, Jordan. The youngest is only 23 years old. Many widows of this region – especially those who have fled Iraq – live in houses without heat or proper sanitary facilities. A mother will sometimes live together with her children in one small room because she is not able to afford a proper home for her family. Unemployment, disease and depression are prevalent among these widowed women who are often far too young to have such problems. In addition to these troubles, many of the Iraqi refugees who have fled to Jordan must deal with an uncertain legal status and the general insecurity which arises from being in an unfamiliar country. Many suffer from phobias and have lost all hope for the future. They have lost all trust for the government and no longer believe that their lives will improve. The widows who live in Jordan wish to have a future in a Western country; many, however, moved to Jordan illegally and have false papers or no papers at all.

The Iraqi Widows Organization provides these widows with a new financial basis, medical treatment and consultation. But above all, it gives them the courage to face life.

The project also puts an emphasis on the care of children. These children carry responsibilities far too great for their age and are denied the chance of an education because they are expected to begin work at age 11. Memories of the war are their only companions.

Together with a team of doctors, psychologists, and social workers, Rajaa al Khuzai supports traumatized women and children to regain a foothold in life.

Thanks to the generous support of “Wider die Gewalt” and their fundraising initiative during der Nacht der Wiener Wirtschaft 2007, Dr. al Khuzai was able to expand her project and assist more widowed women.


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