Among the proposed reforms were changes to Iraq’s political structure, economic planning, cultural attitudes towards women and discriminatory laws, which if implemented would significantly reduce the barriers to female progress.
Following a distinct approach, the Future Search is an inclusive, multi-stakeholder process designed to engage large and diverse populations in a collective dialogue on gender issues affecting society, with those involved in the conference reflecting the diversity of the Iraqi nation. Convened by Alwane, participants in the Iraqi Future Search included H.E. Ibtehal Yaiser, Minister for Women, H.E. Kawa Mahmood Shakir, Minister for Culture and Youth in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Dr. Mahdi Muhsin Ismael, Deputy Minister of Planning. Iraq’s parliament was represented by Intisar Ali Khudhur, Chair of the Women’s Committee and Dr. Saeed Rasool Hussein, Chair of the Youth and Sports Committee, along with other MPs. They were joined by Mr. Naem Abdel Malek Al-Saheel, Presidential Advisor, and Dr Sabah Abdul Rasool Abdulreeda from the Baghdad Provincial Council, as well as academics, civil society activists, and youth in what was an unprecedented meeting of minds on the future of Iraqi women. ALWANE’s ultimate goal is to develop key policy recommendations across various sectors and to influence policy at a state level.
Commenting on the release of the Future Search report, Mr. Naem Abdel Malek Al-Saheel, Presidential Advisor in Iraq, said: “Iraq’s future is neither fixed nor predictable, but this Future Search – engaging the country’s current and future generations of leaders – has sparked a renewed spirit of unity and commitment to a cause that cuts across all levels and sectors of society. Alwane has created a roadmap for reform and social change; the next step is for those in power to take notice and join us in seeing this future realised.”
The Iraqi Future Search report has already been turning heads in government and at the United Nations such as the UNDP and the UNFPA. Alwane Iraq Committee members were invited to help draft the UNDP’s upcoming National Human Development Report, as well as integrate the Future Search findings into the National Youth Strategy of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The report effectively provides a broad overview of Iraqi women’s current social position alongside precise objectives and recommendations for the future.
One of the central proposals of the report is for women’s quotas to be expanded across all political structures, including political parties, and that this is supported with campaign training for female electoral candidates. A nationwide advocacy programme will also be launched championing gender equality and women’s rights to create a major cultural shift in Iraq, its momentum directed towards vital steps such as reform of the national school curriculum. The Future Search report identified childhood as a decisive phase in attitude-formation and argues these principles should be embedded at an early stage.
There are also some clear legal objectives: child marriage should be outlawed, according to the Alwane-led report, which wants the marital age raised to 18 and harmful customs like the nahwa ended. Alongside these proposals, the Future Search also highlights negative developments as causes for concern, such as the recent decline in women’s political representation and deterioration in their economic security in particular. This prompted a call from the Future Search participants for national budgets to become ‘gender-sensitive’, whereby the impact of budgetary decisions on specific groups of women in Iraqi society forms a key consideration for government planners.
The strength of the Future Search lies in its suitability for contexts like Iraq, which continues to experience much instability and uncertainty. It brings the ‘whole system’ into one room; an essential requirement for a country facing two layers of upheaval, where the on-going social and political changes since 2003 are combining with the energy and promise of the Arab Spring. It is Alwane’s responsibility to ensure women’s voices are not lost in this period of transition, and the launch of the Future Search report has proved a decisive step in sharing its positive and proactive vision with the nation.
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