MADRE’s Strategies for Change Conference series provides an open and safe forum for Iraqi and Syrian women working in conflict, humanitarian disaster, and confronting violence and extremism. Convenings are designed to strengthen in-country collaborations between civil society organizations, crossing geographical and political divides for a ground-up approach to movement building, to both meet immediate needs and create long-term sustainable change. Participants come together to share and discuss their challenges, best practices and practical recommendations for the local and international communities to better-inform policy decisions that affect their work and lives.
Two Strategies for Change conferences have already brought together Iraqi and Syrian women in Istanbul in January and October 2015. Taking the lessons learned from these two previous convenings, MADRE, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), ASUDA, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and the Sorensen Center of CUNY Law School, are now working with local women activists to organize country-specific convenings for Iraq and Syria.
The first of these country-specific convenings was held in April 2016 in Erbil, Iraq. Over the two-day conference participants working with over a dozen Iraqi women’s organizations from Baghdad, Samarra, Tikrit, Al Najif, Basra, Qadissiya, Salahaddin Diwaniya, as well as the Kurdistan region, Erbil, Kirkuk, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk, and representatives from the Yezidi community worked together to identify challenges faced in the current context and to generate concrete, practical recommendations for ongoing, gender-sensitive reconstruction and stabilization efforts throughout Iraq. Discussions also included strategies for reducing stigma associated with sexual and gender-based violence and barriers to women’s meaningful civic participation. Recommendations address four priority areas of focus: implementation of law and policy, services, security, and the mobilization of civil society. They are further clustered to target and tailor demands relevant to the Iraq central government in Baghdad, the Kurdish Regional Government, and to address concerns of the Yezidi community.