Iraqi govt, U.N. agencies begin training women to farm

Women and girls in Iraq face a slew of challenges including lack of access to education

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The Iraqi government and United Nations agencies have earmarked $2.5 million this month to boost literacy and train women and girls in rural provinces to work in agriculture.

“Rural women have great potential and enhancing their skills and access to resources and services will contribute tremendously in national development,” Iraq’s Minister of Women Affairs Baiyan Nouri said in a statement.

Women and girls in Iraq face a slew of challenges including lack of access to education -- some 3 million children, many of them girls, are out of school in Syria and Iraq, according to U.N. figures -- and mass displacement due to conflict, sexual violence and exploitation.

Earlier this year, rights campaigners estimated some 14,000 women have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, and many women and girls - including children as young as four - were raped during that time.

In remote rural areas, where entrenched discrimination is rife, it can be even harder for women to access basic services.

The program aims to create a network of female agricultural workers in some of the country’s most marginalized rural communities who will reach out and train other women to help boost their productivity and income, among other things.

It was championed by UN Women and the Iraqi government in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In addition, the initiative will provide women and girls living at the margins of society with legal assistance, psycho-social support and reproductive health as well as raise awareness about their rights.

“Rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, and social changes required for sustainable development...Investing on rural women is timely in achieving the goals,” said U.N. Women’s Sadiq Syed.