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Mercy Hands: Empowering Women and Promoting Gender Equality in Iraq

Mercy Hands is an international non-governmental organization based in Iraq. The organization has been working to provide humanitarian and development aid to vulnerable communities affected by conflict, displacement, and natural disasters since 2003. One of the key areas of Mercy Hands' work has been to empower women and promote gender equality.

The first women's project implemented by Mercy Hands was in 2005 as part of a program implemented in partnership with UNHCR. The program aimed to provide assistance for the relocation of Al Tash refugees to northern Iraq, returnee monitoring in central Iraq, legal aid and information center in central Iraq, and assistance to Sudanese refugees. Through this project, Mercy Hands designed its first women empowerment and engagement methodology. In 2010, Mercy Hands partnered with UNESCO to implement a women's project that focused on generating public debate and awareness on the National Literacy Strategy, particularly on the theme of literacy for women empowerment. One hundred women in Baghdad were engaged in a series of capacity-building workshops on the importance of literacy for the community. These trained women then implemented community activities to promote literacy. In 2011, Mercy Hands partnered with UNIFEM, which is now part of UN Women, to implement a women's rights project that aimed to raise awareness of vulnerable women in Salah Al Din governorate on women's rights. The project focused on educating women on their rights and empowering them to advocate for their own rights. In 2012, Mercy Hands implemented its first 16 Day campaign for Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was directly supported by UNIFEM. The campaign focused on challenging militarism and ending violence against women. This campaign was a significant step in Mercy Hands' efforts to raise awareness of gender-based violence and promote women's rights. In 2018, Mercy Hands implemented its first women and agricultural livelihood project in Northeast Syria, funded by Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH). The project aimed to increase livelihood opportunities and food security for small and medium-sized farmers and vulnerable women in Northeast Syria. This project was a significant step in Mercy Hands' efforts to support women's economic empowerment. In 2019, Mercy Hands established a women's literacy and vocational training center in rural areas in Basra governorate. The center trained rural women on modern agribusiness concepts and practices and provided them with grants to start their own agribusinesses. This project was supported by AMAR International and then Grace Initiative Global. In 2020, with support from HELP (German NGO), Mercy Hands set up a mask-making workshop for IDP women in Ninewa. The project was part of Mercy Hands response to the pandemic of Covid-19. 96 IDP women were provided with sewing machines and they made a total of 48,000 masks, which were distributed on IDP camp residents and local healthcare facilities.

The mask-making project was replicated next year but in Sharia IDP camp in Duhok. This project aimed to improve women's livelihoods residing in Sharia camp through vocational and business training for economic independence as well as provision of psychosocial support.

In 2022, Mercy Hands received a grant from the Canadian Embassy in Iraq for a women's project that aimed to expand the empowerment of girls and women through IT and coding education in Shatt al-Arab, Basra governorate.

Apart from these women projects, Mercy Hands has made it an integral component of any implemented project to target women. The organization's efforts to promote women's rights and empowerment are critical in supporting gender equality and promoting sustainable development in Iraq and the wider region.


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