What I learned as an Iraqi woman on Int’l Women’s Day in Vienna

by Lemya

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Lemya asking her question

“Frauen sind schön (women are beautiful!)!”

A raucous voice drew my attention in the middle of St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) Square in Vienna. I turned and, to my surprise, saw women from different organizations marching in a rally. It was the 8th of March, a day when people celebrate the International Women’s Day all over the world.

The rally was very crowded but also well-organized.  Looking around, I saw women forming groups and handing out brochures in order to educate the public around their problems and demands. As I watched all this activity, I felt a question burning at the back of my mind. I knew I had to ask it, so headed across to speak to a young woman brandishing a banner with a quote from Margaret Sanger the famous American activist. Quite simply, as a woman from Iraq, I needed to know what a woman from one of the most developed countries in the world could possibly be asking for!

As I walked across, I felt a mixture of jealousy and enthusiasm  – wondering all the while whether I would ever see a similar rally in Baghdad, addressing the everlasting problems of the Iraqi women.  Our problems seem so much more immediate than anything these women might be asking for.

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The IWD March in Vienna

She was happy to answer my question, telling me that they were calling for equality in wages and job opportunities. She also shared that they were fighting for women and immigrants’ rights and indeed better regulations all round. I was inspired.

During our conversation though, I couldn’t help but draw mental comparisons between the women I saw in Vienna and us Iraqi women.  It is of course true tha,t compared to a country like Iraq, Austria is far more developed. However, here there just seems to be so much more energy devoted to actively participating in, diagnosing and addressing their  own problems. In Austria civil society and the NGOs play a pivotal role (along with the government) in building the country. They take personal responsibility in terms of monitoring the problems and suggesting solutions. This is something we can and should learn from in Iraq.

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Freedom banner at IWD in Vienna

The rally of March 8th is a good example of a responsible society, powerful NGOs and active organizations working together. There is a crucial need in Iraq to build up a solid base for a healthy society in which women problems –among others- can be addressed.

It is the responsibility of all of us, women and men working together, to build a nation that endures and is at peace with

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