On November 7, 2012, a mentoring call was held with the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) Iraqi delegates. The conversation was moderated by WPSP Director, Rangita de Silva de Alwis, who asked each of the WPSP delegates to provide an update of their work since their time at WPSP’s Wellesley Institute. There were many new successes and accomplishments for the women on the call. Since the Wellesley WPSP meeting, Shahla Waliy Ali Kli was appointed to a new advisory position in government; Afaf Hashem Fakhir Al Musawi founded a Human Rights Council in Iraq; and Lana Khoshaba Yaqo is going back to get her master’s degree in oil and gas in order to be an adviser for the government.
Joining the conversation was U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Michele Sison. Rangita asked Ambassador Sison to share her insights on how to engage women in nation building in post-conflict Sri Lanka and what insights she could share with the Iraqi sisters in similar post-conflict contexts. Ambassador Sison discussed the importance of recognizing women headed households in post-conflict settings and making sure that these women have legal access to land and economic resources.
The delegates also brainstormed about the challenges they face in both their political and personal lives. As Iraq begins to review its divorce policies and implement the Family Violence Bill, which criminalizes child marriage and female genital mutilation, the discussion revolved around measures that are being taken to implement and enforce laws relating to divorce. Because the government is not enforcing the Bill entirely, the women discussed ways that they can impact the policy, including the importance of women serving as positive role models to encourage other women to obtain their rights to a divorce. Lana stated that “Most of the women here are silent. The solution to make women get out of their shell is to get successful women to tell their story so that other women are inspired to tell their story too.”
The Women in Public Service Project remains a large part of each woman’s life and success story. Marwah encapsulated the role the WPSP plays in her everyday life when she stated, “The WPSP gave me the confidence and the courage. When I want to do something, I’m not afraid.” With the support of sisters from around the globe, the conference call highlighted the true spirit of the Women in Public Service Project as a mentoring network. Ambassador Sison encouraged the WPSP graduates to look at her with both hats, as a WPSP sister and as a resource from the U.S. Federal Government. The women of the WPSP live the WPSP’s missions every day in their efforts to reach out to advise and empower the women around them.