Tammuz Organization for Social Development, with the sponsorship of the Ministry of Human Rights, and cooperation of the USAID/ A2JPI held a seminar to discuss the legal and living situation of widows, under the slogan “Widows have rights too”, on Monday 28th Oct 2013 at the Oil Cultural Center hall, which witnessed 56 participants, who represented governmental officials, representatives of the A2JPI, civil society, academics, researchers, and media.
The seminar was opened by the organization, which welcomed the participants, introduced the project, the agenda and objective of the seminar. Then Mr. Yousif Jamal, Director of the public relations /General inspector office of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, demonstrated the role of the ministry in monitoring widows status, it’s plans to elevate the condition of widows, and what are the options that the Ministry can provide for them.
Mrs. Azhar Alsha’ar Baff, the representative of the State Ministry for Women Affairs spoke of the international reports that try to show statistics of widows and theirs situation in Iraq, she also spoke of the governmental reports issued by the State Ministry of Women Affairs based on the statistics of the Central Directorate of Statistics and Surveys. Also she spoke of how the government is working to monitor widows’ conditions, she said all the governmental work, and widows rights guarantee is based on registration with the Ministries related to the matter. Mrs. Azhar also spoke of the governmental achievements in supporting widows. She stated that the registers of the Ministry holds 1,600,000 widows, but on the other hand she declared that the monthly payments that are granted for widows are not enough, with no clear economic policy in sight in the country; especially that these monthly payments are considered as “grants” not salaries that are organized with a specific law and not listed in the National Budget. So, the legislation of a law is very important, to list these payments in the National Budget.
On the other hand, Mr. Hussein Mohammed, representative of the Women Care Directorate of the MoLSA spoke of the payments of widow, conditions of eligibility, and outlets of registration in Baghdad. He declared that there are 440.000 women registries in hi directorate. He also declared that the General Commission of the Cabinet allocated lands for widows, and that registration is open for widows, when submitting all the required documents.
Dr. Ithar Kadhum, representative of A2JPI, spoke of the aspects the program is working on, that include legal, media, and advocacy aspects, through the preparation of studies about vulnerable and marginalized groups, all were implemented by Iraqi organizations. She also spoke of social problems that women are suffering in Iraq, especially widows.
After that, deliberations started with all participants, who indicated that (the administrational routine associated with widows’ registration in the related directorates, law awareness, and ignorance of law and procedures, bad security situation, financial and administrational corruption, sexual bargaining in official offices, political disputes, the absence of the political will to solve the problems of marginalized groups in general, the weak role of the parliament in legislation the laws necessary for the marginalized groups, tradition and costumes in holding marriages outside the court of law, and the absence of accurate statistics and governmental strategies to support marginalized groups), are the problems that widows are suffering from, and that they are the same that are persistent for decades in Iraq with no successful solutions.
At the end, the participants came up with a number of recommendations:
1. Implementing the general census to have an accurate statistic of widows’ count, through which national strategies can be made to improve widows’ situation.
2. Activate article 30 of the Iraqi constitution, which is concerned with social insurance that will include a wide range of marginalized groups including widows. This article would be the base on which widows payments will be fixed with in the national budget; or the legislation of law by the Parliament to organize widows’ affairs.
3. Open communications and coordination between the specialized NGOs and the governmental bodies to improve widows’ situation, and cooperate in building joined plans and projects.
4. Increasing the monthly payments for widows to improve their conditions.
5. The activation and legislation of laws that forbid marriages outside the court of law, to prevent women’s rights loss.
6. Activate international laws and conventions that deal with widows’ situation, and add pressure on the government to commit to their articles, and implement their conditions.
7. Build a national strategy to defend the rights of widows, by the legislative and executive authorities, as well as NGOs.
8. Implement projects to raise awareness among widows and give them the training that will enable them to inter the work market. These projects should be implemented in cooperation between the government and NGOs.
9. NGOs should continue to raise awareness and advocate to improve marginalized groups situation in society in general, and especially widows, through pushing towards the preparation of draft of laws, or amending the valid laws according to the legal path of legislation.
10. The provision of job opportunities for widows, and encourage them to work through financial loans to support small projects.At the end of the seminar, participants emphasized the necessity of carrying these recommendations to the related authorities, and follow up on their implementation, through activating the role of observatory organizations