On International Women´s Day, UNICEF and GDCVAW in KRI launch the radio station “Voice for Equality”, with support from USAID, to empower women and adolescent girls'
Under the theme, “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow!”, IWD focuses this year on the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and adolescent girls, especially in terms of increased gender-based violence (GBV).
ERBIL, 08 March 2022. – Marking International Women´s Day, under the theme, “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow!”, Iraq celebrates the remarkable achievements of women and girls in our societies, and UNICEF and partners redouble their commitment to extend those gains to every girl, everywhere. On this occasion, the General Directorate for Combatting Violence Against Women (GDCVAW) in the KRI and UNICEF, with support from USAID, launched today the new radio station “Voice for Equality”, a powerful platform to advocate for women and adolescent girls' well-being and empowerment and to address the issue of prevention of GBV and violence against girls and boys; especially among IDPs, refugees and host communities in Kurdistan region of Iraq.
The ceremony was attended by Mr. Rebar Ahmed, Minister of Interior of KRI, Mr. Omed Khoshnaw, Governor of Erbil, US Consul General, Mr. Robert Palladino, and Ms. Sheema SenGupta, UNICEF Representative in Iraq, in addition to other authorities.
Building on UNICEF-GDCVAW collaboration, “Voice for Equality” will echo the voices of women and girls of KRI but also voices of men and boys as advocates and champions of change in accelerating women's equality. It will promote participatory approaches that aim to stimulate critical reflection on power and strengthen voice and agency and also facilitate partnerships across organizations and sectors.
This radio station is one step further on women and adolescent girls’ empowerment in the country. Iraq has made significant advances on women's and girls’ rights, especially in girls’ enrollment in education and the reduction of the rate of girl child mortality. Moreover, the second National Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2020-2024), the National Strategy on Violence against Women and Girls (2018-2030), and the National Development Plan (2018-2022) are positive measures to make the Government accountable to protect women’s and girls’ rights.
However, despite efforts to reach gender equality and parity, significant barriers persist in Iraq. Recent data confirmed a 125% increase in reported GBV incidents in 2021 compared to 2020, reaching over 22,000 cases. This increase is reporting of cases is linked to the resumption and scale-up of GBV-related services after COVID-19 related restrictions were eased. These cases are related to an increase of GBV cases in domestic violence, with a worrisome increase in depression and suicide among women and girls, especially among vulnerable groups such as IDPs and refugees.
UNICEF Executive Director, Ms. Catherine Russell, in her recent statement on International Women’s Day, also asserted the need to protect women and adolescent girls due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in their lives, “We cannot let a generation of girls bear the cost of this pandemic for the rest of their lives. As we work toward a post-pandemic era, girls must be at the center of global, national, and local pandemic response and recovery plans.”
Girls and women suffer disproportionately from violence and abuse. Based on reported cases at least 900,000 women and girls are at risk of GBV in Iraq, though the actual number is estimated to be significantly higher. The child marriage rate is 28%, and illiteracy rates among teenage girls are double that of boys.
UNICEF will continue to work with the Federal Government of Iraq and of the Kurdistan Region to create a safer environment for women in the country, while calling for stronger government investment to prevent GBV and support women and children with access to comprehensive response service as well as to promote girls and women well-being and empowerment, especially on access for girls’ secondary education and skills-building, child marriage prevention, and adolescent health care.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child; in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.