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Women of Iraq victims of sanctions
By Sarah al-Ansary


Sunday 10 August 2003, 13:08 Makka Time, 10:08 GMT  
 Related:
Life and death of Iraq's military
Iraq: Country profile

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Although Saddam Hussein was widely criticised for dictatorial practices women under his administration enjoyed great freedom in their daily lives and secured equal political and economic rights. They also had the same educational opportunities as men.
The rights of Iraqi women, however, seem to have skipped the American radar screen. For a start, there were only three women among the 25  delegates chosen by the United States as a transitional governing council to plan Iraq’s political future.

This clearly indicates an under-representation of women and more focus on the ethnic and political affiliations in the so-called “new Iraq”.
In 1972, the Iraqi government nationalised the oil sector and impressively changed the living standards of the Iraqi people, with women making the greatest social gains. Education and health care were free for both sexes and employment was secured by the government.
Women constitute 50.3% of
the population of Iraq
However, the destructive wars and the sanctions imposed on Iraqis since 1990 led to the deterioration of health, nutritional and environmental conditions.
Today, more than 90% of pregnant women in Iraq suffer from anemia because of  malnutrition, lack of medicine and medical supplies. Basic infrastructure facilities, such as water supply, sanitation and power stations were destroyed, leading to the spread of diseases.
Depleted uranium weapons used by American and British forces were blamed for a dramatic increase in serious health hazards and an immense number of deaths among children and pregnant women.
The skyrocketing inflation that crippled Iraq’s economy due to UN sanctions reduced women’s income tremendously, but they continued to work and maintain their active role in society.
Yet, women in Iraq have proved they are capable of confronting challenges and shouldering additional responsibilities.
Women under Saddam's
administration enjoyed great
freedom
Women constitute 50.3% of the population in Iraq, and they were competent enough to play multiple roles to support their families and ease family burdens even through the toughest times.

Women supporting their families amounted to 8% of all married women. Even illiterate women in the rural areas undertook tasks that were traditionally carried out by men.
 
Iraqi women represent 10.3% of the labour force. In fact, female adult literacy rate rose to over 45% and female students represent 34.4% of all registered university students in Iraq.
Women work as doctors, engineers, teachers and lawyers. Thirty-eight percent of doctors in Iraq are women.
Before occupation women held 8% of the seats of the Iraqi National Assembly. Equal pay for equal occupations was guaranteed. Working women were given six months paid maternity leave and an additional six months at half pay.
Go back: Special Report
UNDP/UNICEF/UNESCO

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