The city of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan Region held its first festival to celebrate women’s rights. The working group on women’s rights of the Kurdistan Social Forum organized its ‘Mrwary Festival’ from 24-25 August in Hawary Shar Park in Sulaymaniyah. Through this festival, the working group aimed to promote the economic independence of women through offering them a space to show their crafts, to showcase talented women and to share success stories of strong women from different backgrounds. The ‘Pearl’ Festival event was supported by the Governor and the Minister of Culture.
The following women highlighted their own experience and success in society as a woman:
- Awat Zardashty is a Zoroastrian from Koya who lives in Sulaymaniyah. She heads the Zoroastrian Association of Iraq and has faced many challenges because of her religion.
- Sanaa Madhat from Garmyan is a-year old first grade student at the College of Medicine. She survived cancer and decided to pursue another degree even though she is a graduate from the College of Agriculture.
- Pakhshan Kakaways is the General Director of Internews International NGO in Erbil and is a former UN Women Officer. She was a victim of early marriage and was forced to marry her cousin but managed to escape and fight for her freedom.
- Sharihan Rushud from Shingal lives in Duhok-Sharya camp. She had been sold and raped as a slave by Daesh but managed to escape. Rushud is now a volunteer in one of the rehabilitation centres in Duhok, helping other women to deal with their trauma.
- Lanya Jamal is a women’s rights activist and human resource development trainer. Her dream was to become an expert in body language even though she did not receive support in her environment. Jamal got a master’s degree at Everest University in Texas in body language as the first Kurdish woman, and founded the Kurdish-American academy for body language.
- Berivan Mahmood is a drawing student at the Garmyan Institute for Fine Arts in Kalar. As a drawr of erotic paintings, she showed a nude woman in a student exhibition in Kalar. Mahmood received a lot of opposition from society, including religious groups. However she continued to pursue her drawing,
Mrwary volunteers published the working group’s first publication, on women’s participation in politics and decision making. The publication contains data on the rate of women participation in the latest KRG elections, information on the “I vote for a woman” campaign which is supported by the working group, and pictures of famous women in the history of Kurdistan. In addition, female volunteers of the College of Biology organized a health awareness activity, women restaurant owners sold traditional food, and a group of female environmental activists raised awareness about environmental protection.
The festival finished with the release of balloons to sky, “for women and peace” and collective Kurdish dancing.
Watch the video report of NRT here (in Kurdish).