Najiba: A struggler and defender of women’s rights in Hawija

February 15, 2019 at 2:10 pm

Najiba Muhammad, 57, a women’s rights advocate in Hawija, Kirkuk Photo: Karwan Salhi

Karwan Salhi- Kirkuk

Working besides men on the farm has not held Najiba back from becoming a women’s rights advocate in Hawija, Kirkuk.

Najiba Muhammad, 57, is called among her fellow villagers in Hawija’s Tal Aliya by the name Um Muhannad (Muhannad’s mother). She is the sole breadwinner for a big family.

“I have been a farmer since I was a child, I had to help my father; therefore I quit school after I passed the primary stage”, Najiba told (KirkukNow).

Najiba got married in the early 1980s. She had two boys, Muhannad and Aws. Her husband, Khalaf Mahmood, died during the Iraq-Iran wr in 1986.

“My life was very difficult. I bought a pick-up truck which was of great help to run our farming business.”

Najiba is the elder daughter in her family. She has four other younger sisters; two of them are still living in the household with their children.

Kirkuk- A local market in Hawija (55 km) southwest of Kirkuk, a year after it was recaptured by Iraqi forces, September 2018 Photo: Karwan Salhi

When Islamic State (IS) militants took control of Hawija in 2014, this woman farmer was a glimpse of hope for the villagers in Tal Aliya, becoming a defender of women.

Because of her tough stance against the terror group, they confiscated her pick-up truck.

Najiba, along with thousands others, fled the area and sought refuge in Kirkuk camps.

Hawija, a district 55 km southwest of Kirkuk, fell to IS in June 2014. The town and its surrounding areas were recaptured by Iraqi forces in September 2017.

The end of IS was the beginning of a new life for Najiba. Soon after she returned to her village, she bought a pick-up truck once again and bring back life to their agricultural lands.

Kirkuk- A gathering of Hawija women in a ceremony marking the world day for combating violence against women, November 2018 Photo: KirkukNow

Besides farming, this woman has bigger goals in life. Advocating for women’s rights was one of her childhood dreams and since early age she had a desire for leadership and willingness to reclaim people’s rights.

Now she is a member of the Iraqi Amal (Hope) women organization, where she works to ensure that the voice of women in Hawija is heard.

“I have requested to meet Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Kirkuk MPs in Baghdad”, she said emphasizing that the meeting is to inform relevant departments about the problems of women in Hawija.

She is optimistic that her efforts would lead to establishing a safe shelter for women and combat violence against women in the area.

“It is important that women given a wider role in all fields of life, particularly for women in the workplace”, says Najiba.

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