Spotlight on project participant Manar Al-Zubaidy

The Women Talking Peace Leadership Programme, designed to enhance women’s leadership skills and empower them to drive positive change in their communities, has had a profound effect on the personal and professional development of its participating women. They have experienced increased self-awareness, improved confidence, and enhanced leadership skills, enabling them to overcome barriers and make meaningful contributions to their communities. Their stories underscore the importance of investing in women’s leadership development as a catalyst for societal advancement. By providing women with opportunities for training, mentorship, and support, programmes like elbarlament’s Leadership Programme empower women to challenge gender norms, advocate for their rights, and lead with compassion and conviction.

Spotlight on Manar Al-Zubaidy

Manar Al-Zubaidy is a dedicated woman, with a strong commitment to advancing women’s rights in Iraq. With a Master’s degree in General Law, she has established herself as a prominent researcher specializing in women’s issues, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities faced by women in Iraqi society. As a journalist, Manar serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Manar Platform, a platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of marginalized communities, particularly women in Iraq. In addition, Manar is the driving force behind Ana Hurra (I am Free) Podcast, a pioneering podcast platform that tackles women’s issues in Iraq. As the first media platform of its kind, ‘Ana Hurra’ serves as a catalyst for dialogue and advocacy, empowering women to reclaim their narratives and assert their rights within the public sphere.

Beyond her media engagements, Manar is actively involved in various advocacy and advisory roles. She serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Iraqi Women’s Network, a prominent advocacy organiszation dedicated to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Additionally, she contributes her expertise to the Iraqi Minorities Coalition, advocating for the rights and representation of minority groups across the country.

In her capacity as a consultant, Manar puts her expertise to support the Women’s Department of the local government and several other organisations. Through her work, she provides guidance and support in shaping policies and initiatives aimed at advancing women’s rights and gender equality in Iraq.

Before embarking on her journey with elbarlament’s Leadership Programme, Manar navigated the complexities of her roles with determination and resilience. Yet, she recognized the need for additional support and resources to further her impact and advocacy efforts. Reflecting on her experience, Manar emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and networking opportunities to expand her reach and effectiveness as a leader.

How the leadership programme helped her

Manar Al-Zubaidy’s participation in the Leadership Programme proved transformative on multiple fronts, leaving a long lasting impact on her personal and professional growth. Reflecting on her experience, Manar outlines the diverse benefits she accumulated, spanning from personal skills enhancement to the cultivation of a robust network of connections among other benefits.

On a personal level, Manar acknowledges the refinement of her existing skill set, particularly in areas integral to leadership effectiveness. Through the programme’s comprehensive training modules, she improved her skills in leadership and project management, and gained a new skill set in mediation and negotiation. This had equipped her with the tools needed to navigate complex challenges with efficacy. Moreover, the programme facilitated her engagement in social events and public speaking engagements, further enhancing her ability to articulate her ideas and advocate for change.

The value and power of diversity and collaboration

Beyond skill enhancement, Manar highlights the invaluable diversity of perspectives and backgrounds represented among her fellow participants in the Leadership Programme. The rich pool of experiences and insights contributed by the diverse cohort enriched her understanding of various issues and broadened her worldview. Building upon this diversity, Manar formed deep and enduring connections with her fellow participants, forming an extensive network of support and collaboration.

One illustrative anecdote encapsulates the tangible benefits of this network: when confronted with a challenge in another governorate, Manar turned to a fellow participant from the Leadership Programme for assistance. Through the support and guidance of her colleague, Manar navigated bureaucratic governmental hurdles and secured the necessary government approvals to advance her initiative successfully. This collaborative spirit and mutual support epitomize the core of the Leadership Programme, fostering enduring bonds and tangible outcomes. The establishment of a WhatsApp group serves as a testament to the enduring connections forged through the programme, facilitating ongoing communication and collaboration among participants. Through this digital platform, Manar and her fellow participants continue to exchange ideas, provide support, and support each other’s endeavors, fostering a sense of community and solidarity that transcends geographical boundaries until today.

New opportunities

Manar Al-Zubaidy’s participation in the Leadership Programme not only enriched her personal and professional development but also opened doors to new opportunities for advocacy and engagement. One significant benefit she derived from the programme was the increased visibility and recognition she garnered within academic circles and professional networks.

Throughout the course of 2023, Manar received many invitations to deliver lectures at various universities, shedding light on topics ranging from leadership skills and women’s role in conflict resolution and negotiations to creative thinking and combating electronic bullying. Leveraging her expertise and insights gained from the Leadership Programme, Manar emerged as a sought-after speaker with passion for social change.

Among the universities that extended invitations to Manar was Thi Qar University, where she engaged with students at the Media Department. Through her lectures, Manar conveyed her knowledge on the legal rights of women and the safety of journalists, provoking the platform for meaningful dialogue and fostering critical thinking among aspiring media professionals.

A workshop at the College of Medicine at Al-Qadisiyah University on encouraging women to excel and succeed as a profitable investment for positive change in society

Furthermore, Manar’s involvement in the production of the first manual for the protection of female journalists’ rights in Iraq stands as a landmark achievement in her advocacy efforts. This comprehensive manual fills a crucial gap in the landscape of journalist women’s rights in Iraq, providing a much-needed resource for female journalists navigating the complexities of their profession.

The first manual for the protection of female journalists’ rights in Iraq 

Vision and suggestions for the future

Al-Zubaidy’s vision for continued progress centers on fostering inclusivity and sustainability within projects like elbarlament’s Leadership Programme. When asked about the support needed to advance towards her goals, Manar emphasizes the importance of nurturing and empowering women to contribute meaningfully to such programmes.

Manar underscores the significance of leveraging the expertise of women who have previously participated in such programmes. She suggests reaching out to these women for future consultancies or training roles, tapping into their wealth of knowledge and insights to enrich future initiatives. “By engaging previous trainees” like herself, “ donors can ensure continuity and sustainability in its projects while fostering a sense of community and mentorship among participants”.

Furthermore, Manar proposes a model of training, wherein trained individuals like herself are empowered to train and mentor new cohorts of women. By harnessing the expertise of women who have undergone comprehensive training, Manar suggests that donors can effectively build the capacities of new participants, ensuring the transfer of knowledge and skills from one generation of leaders to the next. “This approach not only enhances the sustainability of such projects but also fosters a culture of mentorship and collaboration among participants”. In essence, Manar’s recommendations underscore the importance of investing in women’s leadership and empowerment initiatives while prioritizing inclusivity, sustainability, and the connecting of existing talent and expertise.

Heading a session on gender-responsive public services 

Al-Zubaidy further emphasizes the importance of broadening networking opportunities beyond Iraq, advocating for increased collaboration with women from across the MENA region. She suggests that donors facilitate interactions by hosting lectures or training programs featuring expert women from various countries within the region, sharing successful experiences and insights related to women’s rights and empowerment.

Manar particularly expresses a keen interest in hearing from Tunisian women, citing their remarkable progress in advancing women’s rights and freedoms and stressing the fact that they have come a long way in women rights and freedom. By learning from their experiences, she believes Iraqi women can gain valuable insights into effective strategies and approaches that can be adapted to suit the Iraqi context. This exchange of knowledge and expertise has the potential to inform and inspire initiatives aimed at driving positive change within Iraq.

Additionally, Manar proposes a collaborative approach whereby organisations collaborate among each other to recommend trained women, such as herself, for participation in external projects. “By leveraging the expertise of its trainees, elbarlament not only enhances its own sustainability but also strengthens its network of connections with other organisations”, she adds.