Iraq Women’s Advisory Boards

Iraq’s Women’s Advisory Boards (WABs), are independent committees that provide policy recommendations, as well as implement local projects, in order to promote gender-sensitive problem-solving.

Additional information





Location: Erbil, Iraq

Organization: National Democratic Institute (NDI)Government of Canada

About the Wise Practice

Nearly two years after the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), communities are working to rebuild, and local governments are challenged to respond to citizens’ needs in order to win their trust. Yet, decision-makers often overlook the perspectives of Iraqi women, who have disproportionately suffered from conflict and who, as caretakers in their households, have a deep understanding of their families’ and communities’ needs. Now, women leaders in five provinces liberated from ISIS are uniting to advise their provincial councils on how to implement policies that would improve the lives of all citizens, especially the most marginalized.


Each of the five WABs, one in each province, is composed of about 17 women from all walks of life⁠ – teachers, lawyers, health professionals, NGO workers, businesswomen, housewives⁠ – whose backgrounds embody the vibrant cultural diversity of Iraq. They are already actively making a difference, from helping internally displaced persons, to campaigning against gender-based violence, to advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. Their ultimate goal is to help create inclusive provinces where women and girls, youth and elderly, people with special needs, and religious or ethnic minorities can sustain their livelihoods, access education and healthcare, and move freely and safely, without fear of violence or discrimination.


Governance & Leadership


  1. Goal 1: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal rights in all fields and in leadership at all levels of decision-making (NUA 13c, 90, 148, 155; SDG 5.5, 5.c; CEDAW article 3, 7).
  2. Goal 2:  Strengthen the interface among stakeholders, offering opportunities for dialogue, including through age- and gender- responsive approaches, with particular attention to contributions from women and others (NUA 42).


Progress is measured on the level of capacity of WABs to design gender-sensitive projects and manage them, and on their ability to engage with decision makers and citizens. Results are also measured by looking at the impact WABs have had on their communities.


WAB members will monitor their projects every three to four months. They have a budget for this follow-up and the group will assess the progress/impacts of their budget. WABs present their research findings and undertake stakeholder mapping exercises as a starting point for their policy advocacy work.

Lessons Learned

The process will only succeed in the long-run if it is inclusive. Increasing women’s participation in governance can help shape policies that are more responsive to all the needs, interests and realities that compose society. WAB members practice analyzing and developing policies through a gender lens, and identify the root causes and gender-differentiated impacts of priority issues in their communities.

Resources and More Information

  1. Iraqi Women Unite to Help Local Governments Respond to Priorities
  2. Women’s Advisory Boards in Iraq Address Problems Worsened by the Covid-19 Pandemic
  3. It’s a Woman’s World: Change-makers in the Mena Region


Published: March 17, 2021