About the Author: Sarah Goldfarb serves as Editorial Assistant to DipNote.
On Tuesday, March 23, I had the opportunity to attend an extraordinary program, “-sponsored event. Ambassador Verveer reminded us that “no country can prosper if half its citizens are left behind.” She then introduced the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie.
Prior to becoming ambassador, Sumaidaie served as the Minister of the Interior and as the First Permanent Representative of the New Iraq to the United Nations. The Ambassador emphasized the unstoppable spirit of Iraqi women. He also spoke of the need to increase women's participation in Iraqi politics. He said, “We cannot fight or flourish without women.”
Following the Ambassador's remarks, Aaron Snipe, a Foreign Service Officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the moderator of the event, introduced the visiting panelists. As a member of a Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Iraq, Snipe had the opportunity to work with female artists in Muthanna in 2008. Snipe's PRT team, in conjunction with a local non-governmental organization, sponsored an art program art program for the women artists of Muthanna. The program, which captured local and national media attention in Iraq, provided an often-neglected part of Iraqi society the opportunity to freely display their talents for the first time. Snipe said, “The paintings represent courage, freedom of expression, hope, dreams, and a desire to be heard.”
The stories of the panelists vividly demonstrated all of those qualities. The panelists are part of the delegation of 15 Iraqi female Provincial Council members visiting Washington from March 13-27. They hail from eight provinces and represent a wide variety of issues: human rights, health and environment, public relations, women and children, public services, the handicapped, economic and essential services, and transportation and communications.
Regardless of the apparent differences and interests among the panelists, it is clear that each Iraqi woman strives to advance women's rights. Despite the difficulties and challenges they confront, their spirit is unwavering and their work will continue to improve the lives of all Iraqis.