In Iraq, Syrian and Yezidi Women Struggle to Rebuild Their Lives

“Our women have been driven from their homeland, and come here living under very difficult conditions. They feel vulnerable. But they are strong women. What they need is a center like this, so they can come and find strength.”

Photo Credit: Alison Baskerville, 2016

Amal is one of the more than 4 million refugees and displaced people struggling to rebuild their lives in Iraq. Today, Women for Women International is working to help Syrian and Yezidi women who have been forced to flee to northern Iraq because of conflict and war.

Displaced for months or years, women face challenges that threaten their basic security, economic well-being, and survival. They are targets of sexual harassment and gender-based violence in their families, camps, and host communities. They struggle to earn money to support their families. Many say they are hungry. They have survived extreme trauma and stress, and they are ready to move forward.

Creating a Safe Space to Access Trained Counselors

In response to this crisis, Women for Women International is working with local organizations in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to reach the most vulnerable women in need of support, including those suffering severe emotional trauma, at high risk of violence, and living in extreme poverty. Over the next three years, WfWI will provide psychosocial support services, and life and business skills training to 3,000 Syrian and Yezidi women in the KRI to help them overcome trauma and find the resources needed to rebuild their lives.

Yezidi women come together to support each other and find ways to manage extreme stress and depression. Photo credit: Alison Baskerville, 2016

The safe spaces we create enable women to share their experiences and draw strength and confidence from one another – this makes all the difference. For the many women who are widows and heads of household, training in business and vocational skills gives them a path forward to provide for their families.

Women Emerge Stronger and Able to Support Their Families

Our programs are distinct from the work of humanitarian organizations that provide basic needs like food, water and shelter. We know that providing a marginalized woman access to resources and skills increases her chances of rebuilding her life and overcoming barriers. “This project has given me hope and the will to go on – to improve my life,” says Kabira, a 38-year-old Syrian woman who lost everything when she fled to Iraq and is now participating in trainings supported by WfWI.

Kabira (right) with her sister Sheiran (left) and their trainer, Amina. Photo credit: Alison Baskerville, 2016

“I am learning about women’s rights, health and well-being and how to prevent violence against women and soon I will be learning how to do market assessment and start my own business…We hope that we can return to where we lived before…We want to rebuild our lives and our country.”

Engaging Men as Partners and Allies

In addition, WfWI is working to engage men in these communities as partners and allies in women’s social and economic empowerment. Targeting male relatives, religious, and community leaders, WfWI will facilitate dialogues and action to change violent and discriminatory attitudes and behaviors toward women.

Invest in Women, Inspire Change

When women are able to earn an income, they can provide a better life for their families, and strengthen their health and well-being both in the short- and long-term.

To learn more about our work with Syrian refugees, watch our Country Director describe our work and the need in an interview on AriseTV.

If you're interested in supporting Syrian women, please contact