Photo: Harald Mundt

Turning up the volume for women's rights in Iraq

More than two years after the defeat of ISIL in Iraq, the city of Mosul is beginning to recover as people start to return home and rebuild their lives. After years of struggling through conflict, Zainab, a young woman from Mosul, is finally realising her dream to become a radio presenter.


Through a DRC apprenticeship scheme wholly funded by the German Federal Government, Zainab is now employed full-time as a presenter at a radio station in Mosul. She shares the challenges she faced to get to where she is today, her hopes for the future and the need for women's voices to be heard in her city:

I read the news and I also present two shows; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We discuss topics like harassment, or whether women should be allowed to work in senior positions in the government. These things can be dangerous to talk about in our society, but I'm not scared; we must start discussing them and make them public. I want to be the first woman to talk about these things in Mosul.

The best part of my job is that I can take the voices of vulnerable people and give them a platform. Ordinary people can struggle to get their voices heard, but through radio, I can take their message and deliver it to the people in power.

I've always wanted to work in the media, ever since I was little. When I was a young girl, I used to take my hairbrush and stand in front of the mirror and pretend it was a microphone! When I graduated from school with the dream of joining the media, the situation in Mosul was very unstable. At that time, only one woman was working in the media sector in Mosul, and ISIS killed her, so my family were afraid for me.

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They just wanted us to stay inside and be quiet

In 2014 when ISIS entered Mosul, they forced women back into their homes. We couldn't go outside. I can still remember, they put up banners saying things like 'a woman in her house is like a queen.' They wanted us to stay inside and be quiet, so I became even more determined to become a radio presenter and to raise my voice. When Mosul was liberated in 2017, I thought, now it's the time for women to do something, they can talk again, they can work, they can be heard.

I faced many challenges when I started work on the radio. My family and even some friends didn't like the fact that I was working on the radio. When I visited some relatives, they wouldn't allow me inside the house. But when my parents saw that I was serious, they started to change their mind, and now they support me.

There are many challenges here for women; society is still closed. It's still not really acceptable for women to drive cars, or work in shops, or on the radio. Here in Mosul, women are afraid to put their picture on their social media profile. But I hope the situation will change.

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Women are half of society

Women's voices need to be heard. We are half of society. The radio can be a safe space for women to speak. Some of the people that listen to my show, call and ask questions because they can use nicknames, and they can talk without anyone knowing who they are. Women tell me, we are afraid to speak, but when we listen to the radio, and we hear you talk about problems that affect us, we feel strong enough to talk too. I think, if they can hear my voice, maybe they will raise theirs.