Women Empowerment Organization (WEO) was established in Erbil, Iraq in 2004. Since then, WEO has worked with a range of partners and donors that include UN agencies and EU grantees to implement programs and activities that promote equal rights for women to ensure they have an active role in the Iraqi community through enhancing their social, political, economic and cultural participation.
WEO works to prevent and respond to GBV and provides survivors of GBV with social and psychological counselling, legal assistance, case management and advocates to increase women’s legal protection. WEO has facilitated a variety of trainings and workshops with KRG ministries, community and religious leaders, judges and police officers in an effort to provide information and secure community members’ support for enhancing women’s rights and protection.
Susan Mohammed Arif
Director & Founder at Women Empowerment Organization (WEO), Erbil, Iraq
She is a founder and director of Women Empowerment Organization (WEO) which was founded in 2004 and currently the coordinator of CSTF for INAP 1325 implementation. Her involvement with WPS agenda and UNSCR 1325 dates back to 2012 when she led a network of women NGOs for the development of Iraqi NAP 1325 called Iraq NAP 1325 Initiative. This advocacy work continued for 2 years until INAP 1325 was fully developed and endorsed by both Iraqi and KRG governments in 2014.
Later she contributed to the development of INAP Emergency plan and INAP priorities for 2016 within a more expanded network called Iraqi Alliance for 1325. Now, she is putting pressure along with the Alliance members to get INAP 1325 implemented across Iraq through direct work with the government ministries at both federal and KRG levels. She has now been identified as the CSTF Coordinator to spearhead the government meetings for more pressure on the implementation. Up to now, advocacy work has resulted in the development of sector-specific ministry action plans which have been combined into a master plan.
We want a holistic, transformational socioeconomic empowerment, based on well-being, equality, social justice, and a powerful voice against women’s poverty. We envision a culture in which women enjoy equal rights and participation in reimagined power and decision-making structures, in which all forms of violence against women has been eliminated, and women have been liberated from all forms of oppression. We envision a society in which women’s contribution to all aspects of life is recognized, rewarded and celebrated – in leadership, in care and in production; all women have freedom of choice, self-confidence, and freedom from exploitation; and no woman has been left behind.
We are a credible source of expertise and experience on equality between women and men and women’s rights, representing the diversity of the women’s movement across Iraq. We represent an inclusive, confident, loud, independent women voice and bring their voices into a political arena. We build consensus and mobilize our members’ collective experience to work on major issues affecting women, to realize women’s rights, equality between women and men and social justice. We also act as a catalyst connecting different actors and organizations to bring change at the national level.
WEO staff act in a manner that reflects a true belief in and appreciation for the dignity and potential of all human beings. Gaining people’s' confidence and creating an environment of trust and openness is essential to our work.
Setting high standards of performance for self and/or others; assuming responsibility and accountability for successfully completing assignments or tasks; self-imposing standards of excellence; ensuring interactions and transactions are ethical and convey integrity.
WEO also embraces DIVERSITY through promoting, valuing, respecting and fully benefiting from each individual’s unique qualities, background, race, culture, age, gender, disability, values, lifestyle, perspectives or interests.
Using appropriate interpersonal styles and techniques to gain acceptance of ideas or plans; modifying one’s own behavior to accommodate tasks, situations, and individuals involved.
Maintaining social, ethical, and organizational norms; firmly adhering to codes of conduct and ethical principles are inherent to WEO.
What We do?
Protecting Human Rights: Protecting human rights is closely linked to advancing long-term, sustainable development. Rights are both part of the goal of development and instrumental to attaining other goals such as economic growth or democracy
Reducing Gender-based Violence: Gender-based violence threatens lives, halts progress, and undermines societies. It is a global phenomenon preventing people, especially women and girls, of their right to a life free from violence.
Empowering Women and Girls: Gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient, democratic societies. When women play an active role in civil society and politics, governments tend to be more open, responsive and transparent. When women are at the negotiating table, peace agreements are more durable.
Combating Child, Early and Forced Marriage: It is a human rights violation that undermines efforts to address maternal health, education, food security, poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS, and gender equality.
Increase Education for Girls: Education is one of the most critical areas of empowerment for women. When girls are educated, they lead healthier and more productive lives. They gain the skills, knowledge and self-confidence to escape the cycle of poverty. They become better citizens, parents and breadwinners. An educated girl has a positive ripple effect on her health, family, community and society as a whole.
Promoting Accountability & Transparency: The process of governing is most legitimate when it incorporates democratic principles such as transparency, pluralism, citizen involvement in decision-making, representation, and accountability.
Empowering Women in Crisis and Conflict: The ongoing-armed conflict and the use of gender-based violence (GBV) as a weapon of war have left women increasingly at risk. The levels of violence and sexual abuse of women and girls living in areas controlled by Daesh, and among the IDPs living in formal and informal camps and settlements, is increasing. In the past year, Daesh abducted thousands of women keeping them captive or selling them to their fighters. Against this context, an effective implementation of UN 1325 Resolution on “Women, Peace and Security” and the INAP has become more urgent. WEO immensely contributed to the development of Iraqi National Action Plan for implementing UNSCR 1325. Iraqi National Action Plan (I-NAP) is a vehicle for democracy, human rights and political participation of women in Iraq. INAP is a concrete framework to aid the development of democracy, human rights and rule of law, measuring women’s representation in political and public life and peace processes. It addresses crimes against women’s rights in times of peace and during armed conflict, and outlining legislative steps to take to respond to international obligations.
Advancing Reproductive Health: WEO advances sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights across Iraq. Our programs that address reproductive health include: (SGBV Awareness, Family Planning, FGM, and Maternal Health)
Promoting Hygiene: WEO works with local governments, IDPs/Refugees and host communities to foster institutional and policy support, develop targeted messages, increase demand and strengthen the production and marketing of hygiene products and services.
Access to Justice: WEO is the implementing partner of the Legal Assistance Scheme in Erbil. The free legal counseling center is located at the investigation court of Erbil and is open every working day of the investigation court (Sunday to Thursday, 9am to 2pm). There are always two lawyers available and ready to counsel clients. We refer clients to a qualified lawyer to take their case. If our clients are in need of any other help, psychological, social or protection we refer them to the appropriate service providers.
Business Incubation for Women: The business incubator for women in Kurdistan is designed to accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial businesses through an array of business support resource and services; it contributes in the formation, development and survival of new enterprises. The business incubator is a powerful instrument to achieve sustainable economic growth.
Livelihood Programs for IDPs, Refugees and Returnees:
A- Business development trainings and grants: women/girls have access to self -employment and sustainable livelihood opportunities. This will be achieved by providing the women/girls with enhanced skills, knowledge and access to business development trainings and income generation program as small business management trainings followed by In-Kind/Cash Grants.
B- Life skill trainings and vocational skill trainings: WEO would organize workshops that would prepare and train them for the nuances of the job market. Incumbents would receive trainings and sessions that would cover topics such as mock interviews, CV writing, customer dealing, using the right sales pitch and presentation skills.
C- Job placements and establishment of job placement center: WEO has been doing job placements and on -the-job trainings since 2013 in partnership with UK Embassy (FCO grant) and has successfully placed many people on the job. WEO will runs a job placement center to support this activity, allowing beneficiaries to find support while looking for employment opportunity. Market assessments complements this activity and provide the necessary information required for the job placement center.
Build the research capacity and increase the gender knowledge of Iraqi academics and CSO activists through this programme to strengthen the women’s advocacy movement for gender equality through enhancing evidence-based research on gender relations and inequalities. Iraqi academics and CSO activists will be trained on research methodologies and will produce evidence-based research on certain gender topics which will be used by Iraqi women CSOs and networks as important tools to develop action plans in cooperation with Iraqi and Kurdish Parliaments, relevant government officials, and Iraqi universities to raise gender awareness and advocate for policy making and policy change.
Increasing the protection, reintegration and awareness of women and girls survivors of SGBV from the IDPs and host communities. This is fulfilled by enhancing increased access to information and care services for women and girls survivors of SGBV from the IDP Camp.
Rapid Response Mechanism: Providing hygiene kits and winterization items to families who get displaced during the first 72 hours of displacement.
Where We Work?
WEO can cover the following geographic areas and provinces:
Some Districts of Nineveh
Who We Work For?
Iraqi Women/Girls in general
Women heads of households
Women and girls minorities
Women MPs and government officials
Girls graduates of university
Women/girls survivors of S/GBV
Syrian Women/girls Refugees.
Male decision makers, academics and activists
Who is the source of funding?
WEO is a non-governmental, non-profit organization and funds its activities and projects through the financial support from the following:
UN Agencies (UNDP, UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR, UNAMI, UN Women, UNFPA)
Foreign Embassies (Norwegian Embassy, French Embassy, Dutch Embassy, British Embassy)
European NGOs (Hivos, Diakonia, NPA, IFA, Mama Cash, KVINFO, GUS).
International NGOs (IRC, Oxfam, Open Society, NRC …etc)
USAID, GIZ & Canadian GPSF.
US Organizations (IFES, USIP, FHI360, Foras, WFWI, Heartland Alliance, Global Fund for Women, NDI, …etc)