CHANNEL4 DISPATCHES: IRAQ-THE WOMEN'S STORY PART 3 OF 3
Every day life in contemporary Iraq is a constant struggle of survival between an increasingly deteriorating infrastructure and the lack of security. Three years after the downfall of the previous regime women are still struggling to look after their families and homes with only a couple of hours of electricity a day, Less than 1/3 of the population has access to potable water and only 20% has sewerage access.
Coupled with a collapsing health system, these conditions are leading to widespread epidemic diseases and premature death amongst thousands of Iraqi children. Food shortages and malnutrition have worsened after the invasion.
Everyone in Iraq suffers from widespread violence perpetrated by the occupation forces, the insurgents, Islamist militias linked to government parties, criminal gangs as well as growing sectarian tensions. Yet, the escalating violence has created a climate of fear that is particularly devastating for women.
Many young girls and women miss weeks, even months, of school or university as their parents fear for their safety. According to the World Bank, women's labour force participation in Iraq today is low even by Middle Eastern standards. Women's employment has not only decreased as a result of the lack of security. Women made up a significant proportion of the public sector and disproportionably face job losses in the context of privatization.
There are numerous accounts of women being verbally and physically attacked for not covering their hair, wearing the wrong clothes and refusing to be pushed out of public spaces. In addition, mafia type gangs specialize in kidnapping for ransom, but are also involved in the sex trafficking of young Iraqi women and girls into Gulf countries.