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1st Marine Division


1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
Iraqi women take the stand

By Cpl. Billy Hall | | January 13, 2008

A free Iraq affords the Iraqi people a newfound freedom of speech, and coalition forces are seeing to it that every facet of society can be heard.

  Cultural barriers have prevented male service members from interacting with part of the Iraqi populace that traditionally goes unheard.

  Recently, hundreds of Iraqi women in Al Qa’im, Iraq, came together to meet with female service members and voice their concerns and opinions. Female service members with the help of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, held meetings in Husaybah and Ramana and provided the uncommon integration of coalition forces and Iraqi women and their children.

  “Our intentions are to speak to the other half of the population that male coalition forces can’t engage,” said Staff Sgt. Tiffany Grovdahl, a team leader with the Civil Affairs Team of 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2. “I think it’s extremely important, here at the ground level, to get the positive word out to (Iraqi women) and get their feedback.”

  The Iraqi women and female service members were able to effectively communicate on a personal level, given the safe forum provided.

  “Women tend to open up a little more than men, especially in comfortable situations,” said Grovdahl. “They’re able to tell us what’s really going on, so we can pass it on to the city council. They’re usually already aware of these issues, but when the city council hears news that the women are complaining, it tends to put them in motion a bit faster.”

  The civil affairs team that is permanently stationed in the area relies on the female service members to provide vital information that the men can’t obtain on a regular basis.

  “Because of the cultural barriers, it’s important to have the team of women come out here from time to time, so the Iraqi women can also have a say and bring issues to our attention,” said Staff Sgt. Jay Tansy, the Civil Affairs Team chief for Al Qa’im.

  The women discussed issues such as electricity, water and hygiene, while receiving guidance back from the female service members.

  “We advise them on what they can do to make their lives better,” said Grovdahl. “We discuss healthcare and give them things like hygiene items. We also give them advice, like keep your kids in school, so they can stay off the streets and away from bad influences.”

  The women rarely have access to the news and are at times kept in the dark to the progress the region is making.

  “We let them know that the (Iraqi police) and the (Iraqi Army) are doing their jobs now,” said Grovdahl. “They need to know that their security is being provided by local Iraqis, and we’re just here to back them up in case they need any help.”

  A major issue of discussion was the high number of Iraqi widows in western Al Anbar.

  “In Al Qa’im there are close to four hundred widows, and at one time they were receiving a pension from the government,” said Grovdahl. “The pension program was stopped at one point, and we’re trying to put it back together.”

  Coalition forces distributed bags of food, toys and other goods to the women and children at the conclusion of the meetings. The Iraqi women and their children were all smiles and thanked the female service members for their efforts.

  “It’s nice to see them get something out of it and to let them know that other people actually care about them,” said Grovdahl. “They’ve had such a hard time out here since the war started, and you have to kind of put yourself in their shoes.”