In 1997, WADI began to plan the first shelter for women in northern Iraq, in close cooperation with all active women’s organizations of Suleymaniah. The project was also supported by Women against Violence (Nazareth). The first shelter for women in distress, NAWA Center, opened in 1999, after two years of intense preparations. WADI operated the NAWA Center for two years in cooperation with women’s organizations in Suleymaniah. Then the center was taken under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs. WADI continues to cover part of running costs and participates in decision making processes.
The general goal of the center is to help the many women who suffer serious social and psychological problems. When the center opened, this group of women included mainly homeless and displaced women; some lost their family during war, others were expulsed from their homes. Exile and displacement were the fate of many Iraqi-Kurds, as a result of the 1986-88 Anfal Campaign.
Today, the center helps women victims affected by domestic violence, forced marriages, and threats of “honour killings”. In traditional Kurdish society, women are legally subjected to men, and disobedience may be revenged with murder. Disobedient women are considered sinners. In 1999, NAWA Center was the only place to which women could flee, in order to save their lives. Since then, WADI supported the opening of more women’s shelters in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Women in danger can find a safe place in NAWA Center. The center provides food and accommodation as well as psychological and medical treatment, social and juridical assistance. Workshops, literacy courses and vocational trainings are provided to the women in order to improve their psychological condition and to provide them the means for making a living. The main objective of the center is to reintegrate these women into society, and where possible into their families, while keeping their dignity.
Between the opening of the center and 2007, more than 1200 women have found shelter and assistance at NAWA Center. The NAWA Center has been handed over to the government (Ministry of Social Affairs) as a successful project in 2006. Due to security reasons, for permanent operation it is generally recommendable to run such shelters under government auspices. WADI maintains an ongoing partnership and co-operation with the center. To guarantee good standards the Women’s Law Center (Wola), an organisation supported by WADI, has launched a “shelter-watch-program” monitoring the shelter regularly.