SRSG Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert remarks at IWD event | MoFA

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is good to see that there are so many Women’s Day events being held in Baghdad and throughout the country. This is especially good as there continues to be a true need for the recognition of the plight and rights of women. In so many ways. In so many countries. Also, in Iraq.


I would like to warn though, against change as mere window dressing. At the end of the day, it is all about translating great speeches and excellent intentions into positive action. At the end of the day, it is all about getting things done.

Take all the women and girls suffering from physical and mental abuse but still waiting for the Anti-Domestic Violence Law to be updated and implemented.

Take the women who are - rightly or wrongly - perceived to be affiliated with extremists, who are stuck in camps, falling prey to discrimination and abuse.

Take the women and girls killed by Daesh, the women and girls raped, kidnapped and sold as slaves, the women and girls who remain missing. No effort should be spared to ensure their safe return to their families.

Social oppression, sectarian strife, violence. It is still happening, and resolute action against it is the only way forward.

Ladies and gentlemen,
On a day like this we also take pride in those women and girls stepping up to claim their rightful space in society.

We take pride in those women and girls who risked their lives to protect fellow Iraqis escaping from Daesh, who contributed and continue to contribute to the defeat of terrorism on the frontlines, in their offices, or through their community activism.

Bravery does not only show itself on the battlefield. Several days ago, I had the honour of meeting two girls from Basrah, Zahraa Mohammed and Athraa Mohammed. They were being awarded for their efforts to educate themselves against all odds. In the absence of electricity, they studied in the light of burning oil wells. True perseverance. Bravery can be as simple as that: taking charge of your own destiny.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to reiterate another key message that I’ve expressed before. Those of you who have heard me speaking in the past days might think I am sounding like a broken record, but it simply is a very good record, so I can’t stop playing it: “Excluding women from the political process is to ignore half of Iraq’s potential, half of Iraq’s talent and half of Iraq’s energy. The country cannot afford to do that.” Could you ever win a soccer match with only half of your team on the field? I’ve never seen it happen.

In this regard, I would like to warmly encourage Iraq’s female politicians to speak up. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Aspire openly to deputy ministerial posts, chairships of parliamentary committees, leadership roles within political party structures. Go where no woman has gone before. For example, join Parliament’s Defence Committee, if security issues interest you. (And, speaking as a former Defence Minister myself, I can confirm that defence and security issues are not only extremely interesting but also of crucial importance.) Really, you will have to speak up to be heard.

Many of you might feel discouraged by the generation of men that currently holds the reins of power. After all, the old boys’ network could very well be the biggest cartel spanning the globe. But instead of expecting men to invite you to their exclusive club, politely knocking on their door, you should not hesitate and open that door.

Open the door of this club where they certainly could use some humility, integrity and self-awareness. Open the door to end this club-mentality of “we know what is good for you, woman.”
A club where gender seems to be more important than talent.

Ladies and gentlemen,
We all know that, to a certain extent, men and women are hardwired in a different way. And within this context somebody told me the following a few days ago:

One day, a computer science teacher thought it would be interesting to let his students decide what gender a computer should be. So he divided the class into two groups, by gender, and asked them to decide whether "computer" should be a masculine or a feminine noun.

The men's group decided that computer should definitely be of the feminine gender, because:
1. No-one but their creator understands their internal logic.
2. When computers communicate with each other, they speak in code language that only they and experts can understand.
3. Every mistake you make is stored on the hard drive for later retrieval.
4. As soon as you commit to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessorising it.

The women's group, however, had the final word, and concluded that computers should be masculine because:
1. In order to get their attention, you have to turn them on.
2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves.
3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem.
4. As soon as you commit to one, you realise that if you had waited a little longer, you could have got a better model!

Of course, this is a joke, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that men and women have different capacities and can both bring different qualities and solutions to the table. They can and will complement each other.

It is therefore high time to forget about the old male-centric idea of leadership and come up with a new paradigm. It is high time for political parties, as well as communities, to expand and to restructure, to attract competent Iraqi women, and to enable them to rise through party and community ranks, to make use of their skills.

And yes, where there is a will there is a way. As I said: at the end of the day it is all about getting it done. And it can be done.

Thank you.

Last modified on Thursday, 14 March 2019 17:50

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