WASHINGTON, DC — The Independent Women’s Forum today is pleased to announce it has been awarded a grant to focus on the immediate promotion of women’s full political and economic participation in Iraq. The grant is part of the US Department of State’s $10 million Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative. As Iraqi women prepare to compete in Iraq’s January 2005 elections, IWF, in partnership with the American Islamic Congress and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, will provide leadership training, democracy education and coalition building assistance for 150 pro-democracy, Iraqi women leaders and political activists.

“IWF appreciates the great vote of confidence this State Department grant represents,” said Heather R. Higgins, chairman of IWF’s Board of Directors. “Even more, we are gratified that we will again have the privilege of walking the walk as we did with our 9/11 Infant Care Project, trying to make lives better by putting into action the ideas we espouse, using both our heads and our hearts.”

IWF, with its partners, will implement a 12-month Women Leaders Program and Democracy Network Information and Coordination Center to provide Iraqi women with education on democracy and political advocacy and build networks of Iraqi women activists with a common agenda. The Center will be a key source of information and educational materials on democracy, campaigning, and governance for a variety of Iraqi democracy and women’s rights advocacy organizations.

“A new democratic era in Iraq has begun. However, the social and political barriers facing women in Iraq remain high,” said Michelle D. Bernard, a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum. “In order to fully realize women’s human rights in Iraq, all Iraqi citizens, particularly women, must have a good understanding of core principles of democratic governance.”

“As Iraq takes its next step towards liberal democracy, the international community must support Iraqi women in their efforts to run for elective office in Iraq’s January 2005 elections,” Bernard continued. “The fundamental rights of Iraqi women can only be advanced if women are elected to and participate in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Iraqi government.”

Click here to read the Washington File article, “Iraqi Women Receiving Democracy Training Ahead of Elections.”

Click here to read IWF’s profiles of Iraqi women leaders.