Iraqi minister for women resigns over lack of money


Tue, Feb 10, 2009 - Page 6

Iraq’s main government official for women’s affairs has quit just six months into the job to protest a lack of resources for a daunting task — improving the lives of tens of thousands of women left poor or widowed by the war.

Female lawmakers on Sunday urged Nawal al-Samarraie, officially state minister for women’s affairs, to change her mind and demanded that the government get serious about empowering women.

The 47-year-old gynecologist, who submitted her resignation last Tuesday, said that things quickly went downhill after she assumed her post on July 22 when her Sunni political party ended a boycott to rejoin the Shiite-dominated government.

Her office — with a staff of 18 — was not a full ministry and had insufficient authority or resources to help the widows and other women facing great hardship after nearly six years of war, she said.

Al-Samarraie said she finally submitted her resignation on Tuesday, in part because her budget was slashed from US$7,500 to US$1,500 per month as part of this year’s overall government spending cuts due to plunging oil prices.

“I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women,” she said in an interview on Sunday. “The budget is very limited ... so what can I do?”

Her resignation has cast a spotlight on the overwhelming problems facing Iraqi women. An untold number have lost their husbands or other male relatives to violence or detention since the 2003 US-led invasion, often leaving them alone with children and no safety net.