An opportunity to have my voice heard - Iraq, EITI and women's participation

Source: Ibtisam Al Shammary
Date: 20 Feb 2022

Iraqi women play a crucial role in promoting the good governance of their natural resources. Perhaps naturally so, after all, can governance genuinely be good if half of the population is excluded? Yet they face many challenges in their work. Here, Ibtisam Al Shammary, a lawyer and member of PWYP’s affiliated coalition in Iraq, tells us about her experiences as a member of the EITI multi-stakeholder council.

If we, as women, are not aware of the revenues coming from oil, or the process surrounding its governance, then how can we manage our expectations when it comes to our own finances?

Iraqi women feel that they need to be more involved in the natural resource sector because the revenues that filter back into the society directly affect our own budgets and life. It is crucial that we understand how and where and by whom these revenues are managed.

Yet currently, despite women’s active involvement in the field of extractive industry transparency, we do not have access to the same platform as men.

Very few women are allowed to hold managerial positions in ministries crucial to the governance of our natural resources, such as the ministries of oil, finance or of natural resources.

On the other hand, being on the multi-stakeholder group of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative has allowed me to feel a sense of equal treatment. I have the opportunity to express my concerns equally and to experience being in a decision making position. The women on the Multi-Stakeholder Group are not there as window-dressing or to make up the numbers. We are the most active participants in discussions and make legitimate and professional demands which are listened to by the other members.

Women have been involved in many activities relating to transparency and combating corruption, in particular transparency in the extractive industries. They have founded organisations, networks and alliances in this field, such as the Woman for Supporting Woman Association (WSW), one of whose four programmes in its rules of procedure addresses transparency and combating corruption. Women also set up the National Network of Transparency and Monitoring of Corruption, to which I was elected director by more than 90 organisations, and they sit as board members of the Coalition for Integrity and the Iraqi Transparency Coalition for Extractive Industries (ITAEI). We have direct communications with the Integrity Commission and Committees for Integrity in parliament and the governorate councils, and with the relevant media.

Women have taken part in several television interviews on Iraqi satellite channels, such as Alhurra-Iraq, Al Iraqiya, Asia-TV, Al Taghier and others, and we have held workshops to explain the Initiative in the governorates of Baghdad, Maysan, Diyali and Nineveh.

Women have also been involved in several workshops and conferences outside Iraq concerning transparency in the extractive industries, such as the workshops in Beirut and Dubai and the Publish What You Pay Conference in Amsterdam and looked at the experience of Azerbaijan. I visited foreign companies in Azerbaijan, and the port of Basra, and the port of Ceyhan in Turkey to look at how they export oil and monitor oil meters, and we saw oil tankers and looked at many other details in this regard.

Women have presented studies, working papers and slides on this topic in IEITI conferences and in the Ministry of Interior workshops held in the Sheraton, and the IEITI workshop in the Oil Cultural Centre.

We have also arranged photography exhibitions of the activities of the IEITI and those of the ITAEI and WSW in the joint exhibition in the Cultural Club in Hayy al-Jaza’ir, the joint exhibition in the Cultural Club in al-Hurriyah, the Rasheed Hotel exhibition, or the Qishla exhibition, and other exhibitions.

The attendance of women on the Stakeholder Council has been noteworthy. They have been present at every meeting, wherever held, whether it be in the Secretariat for the Council of Ministers or in the headquarters of the IEITI in the Green Zone or in the Ministries of Oil or Electricity. We also attended all sub-meetings and sub-committees and meetings with the reconciliation companies and the World Bank. We met with the Australian Ambassador who was hoping to join the international Initiative, but did not know the procedure. We explained the benefits of joining the IEITI, and convinced him to do this.

Women have taken part in committees formed by the Stakeholder Council such as the committee for analysing tenders or opening tenders and have, as part of the IEITI legal team, formulated a law related to the Initiative.

Participating in the EITI process has given me the opportunity to express my concerns equally and to experience being in a decision making position, it has offered me the chance to act in a non-gender biased atmosphere. My opinions are listened to and most of the time what I say influences major decisions. In short – my voice is heard.