Overcoming challenges: The IOG’s Gender Equality Program in Iraq

3 minute read

By: The Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Senior Advisor

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Since 2003, the Government and the people of Iraq have begun an important and very challenging transformation of their social and political system. Indeed, Iraq has departed from the unitary centralist state model to a federal structure. The Institute on Governance (IOG) has been operating in Iraq since 2015 under a contract with Global Affairs Canada implementing the Fiscal Federalism, Decentralization and Resiliency project. The project supports the necessary foundation that Iraq needs to become a stable, federal democracy with sustainable economic growth.

An important component of our work is to increase the efficacy of senior public officials, particularly women, to operate in a federal state. Enhancing women’s leadership, advocacy, and decision-making both at the federal and provincial levels is a priority; the IOG has been involving Iraqi women leaders in training courses, field-study visits to federal countries, and on-the-job coaching as a result. Our goal is to see more women in positions of leadership in government and in public institutions. To achieve this goal, the IOG has developed a Gender Equality Program. The Gender Program aims at increasing the ability of Iraqi women to lead, improving the capacity of women in civil society organizations to advocate and cooperate with government, and to support the Iraqi government’s inclusion of women’s perspectives in its decisions, policies, and actions.

The highlight of our Gender Program is the development of a leadership training program for women in senior positions. Our first cohort is comprised of 24 senior women from the public service and leaders of civil society organizations. Last October, they travelled to Canada to gain a better understanding of their roles and how to become more effective leaders in the new system of decentralized governance in Iraq. They met with Canadian women in elected office, the public service, and civil society with the objective of advancing the principles of federalism in Iraq and developing their capacity to work together to achieve better outcomes for all Iraqis. Included on the speaker guest list were two former provincial premiers: Premier Dalton McGuinty from Ontario and Premier Pauline Marois from Québec.

The second initiative of the program is to do a needs assessment of women in Iraqi leadership positions to better understand the role that Iraqi women play in civic affairs, their career paths, the challenges they faced in rising to senior levels and how they overcame those challenges.

The third initiative is to support the gender units that exist in federal and provincial governments to enable them to enhance their capacity to effectively deliver programs and services to women and girls in their respective areas.

Our Gender Equality Program was structured to respond to “Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy”, which states that “Canada wants to help equip women in Arab countries for more women in positions of power, in politics, at the heads of companies and in other decision-making spheres.” We firmly believe that peace and stability in Iraq will be reached with the increasing participation of these outstanding women.

About the author

Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

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