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Iraqi Minister of Women's Affairs Calls for Equal Representation, Strengthened Media

Washington, D.C., Oct. 1, 2004 — The Iraqi Minister of Women's Affairs, Narmin Othman, called for equal representation for women in her government and "strengthened" media coverage of terrorist acts in exclusive interviews with Voice of America's Persian-language News and Views and Kurdish Service today.

"Our mass media needs to be strengthened," Othman said when asked why some Iraqis have misgivings concerning U.S. presence. She said there was a need for more objective coverage of terrorist attacks against soldiers, both U.S. and Iraqi, and civilians.

The long-time member of the Kurdish resistance and former Minister for Social Affairs in Kurdistan also discussed the role of women in the future of Iraq, their achievements since the fall of Saddam Hussein and their importance in education.

"We cannot build democracy without women," Minister Othman said, "[they] must be involved in every part of Iraq." She added that since the ouster of the Hussein regime, there are some 500 local NGOs "working for women," building civil society through education about democracy, violence against women, business, and healthcare.

Despite such grassroots involvement, Othman said she is "striving" to increase the planned 25 percent representation quota for women in the government, saying it "should be around 50 percent."

Othman said the recent $10 million U.S. State Department aid package to the Ministry of Women's Affairs would support improving women's participation in the political process and the January 2005 election.

Asked to comment on the state of Iraqi education since the removal of Saddam Hussein, Othman said that literacy had been in continual decline over the past two decades and that today too many children are not in school. "The mothers could read and now their daughters cannot," she said. Nonetheless, Othman is confident for the future: "through the women, we can make people return to education."

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