Grant awarded to Women for Women International (WfWI)

The Foundation is pleased to again support the work of WfWI in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).  The organization was founded by Iraqi-American humanitarian and entrepreneur Zainab Salbi in response to the horrific atrocities committed against women in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.

This grant funding would benefit WfWI target population of ‘marginalized’ women in the KRI. WfWI’s program targets women who have limited access to resources, including single heads of household and widows. These women are often survivors of gender-based violence, victims of human rights violations, whose lives have been shattered by conflict through the loss of family, loss of property or displacement. Specifically, this grant will support the training of 700 Syrian and vulnerable host country Iraqi women in Daratu, Erbil. The funds will be used to accomplish the following: Deliver a social and economic empowerment program to 700 marginalized women in the KRI: In this second year of operation in KRI, WfWI will enroll 700 women from Daratu, Erbil in our training in December 2018. Comprised of Syrian refugee and vulnerable host country Kurdish women, project beneficiaries will be chosen based on WfWI’s tested criteria that ensures that we reach those most marginalized, based on social, economic and conflict-related vulnerabilities. WfWI’s baseline data from the first group of women in the 12- month program in the KRI reveal that their lives were typified by hardship and lack of opportunity when they joined the training: 100% of women were living below $1.90/day poverty line, while only 7% of women were earning an income and 27% had no formal education. We expect that target beneficiaries in this second year will align with this profile. Once selected and enrolled, women will come together in classes of 25 to build immediate support networks and have access to a safe space as they complete WfWI’s core curriculum. Regular classes will enable groups to form tight social circles of support—breaking isolation and promoting cohesion and trust between women from the Syrian refugee and Kurdish host communities.

The economic empowerment component of the program will train women in the following areas: (i) numeracy skills for those who need it; (ii) benefits of saving, basic household budgets, and opportunities for income generation; (iii) business basics, credit, entrepreneurship, planning, selling, and bookkeeping; (iv) working in a group or cooperative, collective decision-making; and (v) formal and informal savings and access to financial services. WfWI will also provide women with nine months of market-based vocational training. WfWI is currently running further market assessment to determine vocational tracks, matching demand and profitability with women’s capacities, interests and assets. Under the social empowerment component, women will be trained on health and wellness, their rights and decision making, and social networks and safety nets. This training will also include gender-based violence awareness and prevention. Finally, each woman will receive a monthly training stipend of $10 that she may use to meet family needs or begin saving towards her future.

The evidence from our own programs with women across conflict-affected countries as well as from development leaders such as the World Bank and the OECD show that investing in women’s empowerment, even in these fragile contexts, promotes sustainable growth, reduces poverty, and has a range of positive outcomes for families and communities. This is because women contribute their tremendous skills to social and economic domains, and extend any gains they make to their households, investing in education, healthcare, nutrition and assets – the building blocks of thriving societies. Our holistic approach provides women with vital skills, knowledge and resources to build self-reliance in the key areas of health and wellbeing, livelihoods and saving, rights and decision-making, and support networks.