Shams writing for nina-iraq.com
by Shams Al Shakarchi
In my behind-the-scenes role as social media assistant for Nina in the UK, I have been working to build its online presence, while our incredible editor Madeleine White has put the entire project together.
In fact, like many people who attended the House of Commons event, it was the first time I’d seen the finished product, flicked through the pages and read the huge variety of stories from Iraqi women.
Speaking to those who had contributed to the first issue or want to be involved in the next, there was a real feeling this launch was the beginning of something exciting for Iraqi women everywhere.
Nina is much more than a magazine, web forum and Facebook page. It’s a catalyst for change.
Years of dictatorship, conflict and hardship have affected Iraq’s social fabric and contributed to the deterioration in the lives of Iraqi women.
Despite the Government of Iraq’s commitment to improving gender equality and women’s rights, a huge majority of women are still economically inactive.
In 2012, only 14 per cent of Iraqi women were working or looking for work – compared to 73 per cent of men.
The OECD suggested that by closing the gap between male and female employment rates, the Middle East GDP would grow by more than 20 per cent.
Last year, the Iraq GDP rose by a phenomenal rate to 10.4% – can you imagine if we added another 20 per cent if women were involved?
Nina – which launches in Sweden tomorrow (May 19) – aims to harness the voice and passion of Iraqi women, break down barriers to economic participation and unlock a significant entrepreneurial force.
It will champion and inspire women by sharing experiences and success and provide a forum to exchange ideas and advice.
At the launch hosted by Lorely Burt MP, Madeliene White spoke passionately about what Nina meant to her and what it aims to achieve.
Charlotte Kallin, from Chamber Trade Sweden, described how Nina was the “natural instrument” to start mobilising businesswomen.
Zayneb Mahdi, who has written for Nina about the power of networking, urged everyone to raise awareness of the magazine and website.
She also shared some words from her father Khalid Mahdi, chairman of Private Sector Development Center Iraq, who highlighted the importance of women’s economic empowerment in lifting a country out of poverty, adding Nina was an “important step in the right direction”.
In the first issue, Nina features women who have succeeded in industries dominated by men.
In the 1950s, Nouriya Shaya was Iraq’s first female bank manager. She said it was her strong personality, knowledge and creativity which ensured her voice was heard among her male colleagues and customers.
Iraq’s first billionaire Faruk Mustafa Rasool, also tells Nina the secret to his success was having an inclusive workplace, where women are employed in senior leadership roles.
And with world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid gracing the front page, it clearly shows the kind of talent, determination and business sense Iraqi women can possess.
As lawyer Raya Abu Gulal states in her first column for Nina: “A viable country cannot be built on the persecution of women – nor can any stable society. Iraq cannot simply ignore half of its population.”