From the day we landed in Iraq more than 10 years ago, we knew. Even then, in the middle of the war, at the height of the insurgency—we could see Iraq’s future staring us in the face. Not in the bombs or the sectarian strife or the violence that, some days, feels like it will never end.
It’s in the eyes of the women we meet.
There is strength in those eyes. Resilience. Knowledge. Everything needed to rebuild from the ashes of war. It’s already here.
Most of us only ever get to see one picture of these war-torn places like Iraq and Syria. They only seem to make the news when the bombs fall and the bullets fly. So these beautiful, extraordinary, resourceful women and their families—the only time most of us ever get to see them is at their most vulnerable, their most desperate.
When they are fleeing for their lives.
When their world is freshly shattered by violence.
We don’t always get to see what was there before—or what can be there after.
But living here on the edges of conflict, I get to see it every day—and I want you to see it, too.
I see it in my friends Goze and Sozan, who are more than survivors of ISIS genocide. They are guiding their families back to wholeness, one handmade bar of soap at a time. They depend less and less on aid, and more and more on the strength of their own hands.
I see it in Syrian refugees like Sameeha. Before civil war engulfed her country, she was a designer, a business owner, and a teacher. She had a vision for her life—and no war can take that from her. Today, in the middle of a refugee camp in Iraq, Sameeha’s sewing business is flourishing.
I see it in the eyes of so many other women who you’re empowering, whose stories we get to share with you over the next few days.
The future is in the hands of these women, and make no mistake: their hands are strong enough to hold it. They don’t need us coming in and handing them things. All of the skill, all of the knowledge is already there.
All they need is for someone to listen—to find out what skills they have, to hear their vision for their families and their future—and empower them to make it happen.
Today, on International Women’s Day, be the ones to listen and respond—give women the opportunity to take control of their future, start a business, and write a new future for themselves and their families.
Empower women to remake their world.