Zainab Salbi grew up in Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s rule. At the age of eleven, her father was chosen to serve as Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot and Zainab and her family were often forced to spend weekends with Saddam where he watched their every move. She turned her life around from an abusive arranged marriage to forging a new identity as a champion of women survivors of war and founded Women for Women International in 1993.

Women for Women a non-profit humanitarian organisation, continues to undergo rigorous work in Iraq through one-year programs that include direct financial aid, rights awareness classes, job-skills training and emotional support. 57.5% of their programs participants cannot read or write more than their name so the ultimate aim is to help women become more independent.

Four Iraqi women, who are graduates of the holistic training programme of life, business and vocational skills, made a short documentary illustrating what life is like for Iraqi women a year after President Obama announced the official end of the war in Iraq.

Forty years ago Iraqi women and men were equal under the law and women enjoyed many rights similar to those of women in the UK today. However, since the early 1990s women have seen their rights curtailed and their participation in all areas of society dramatically inhibited. Today, the lack of security and policing in Iraq has led to women being attacked in the streets by people with different political agendas who want to impose veiling, gender segregation and discrimination.

This short documentary below, titled ‘Hands of Hope’ explores how women can overcome economic hardship and lead change in their families and communities through access to knowledge and resources.

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