Iraq's Female Nurses Struggle for Equality

Rahima Hussein, also from Babil, has been working as a nurse since 1979. She told Al-Monitor that her job is one of the reasons she never got married. Hussein stressed that many of her colleagues stopped working due to the narrow societal view of the profession, saying, “Several became midwives working in houses.”

However, journalist Qasim Mozan, the editor of the society column in the Iraqi newspaper Al-Sabaah and a frequent investigator of social issues, told Al-Monitor, “Ever since women started working in this humanitarian profession, they have been looked down on and their honor has been questioned. Even their parents were criticized and described in demeaning terms.”

Mozan added, “The perception of women as inferior is old. After 2003, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime fell, the conservative movement dominated and strengthened the previous popular skepticism, thus discouraging Iraqis from working in the nursing profession. This led the Ministry of Health to recruit nurses from Asian countries to fill the shortage in medical staff.”

Anaam al-Zaidi, who has been working as a nurse in Al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in Dhi Qar for five years, is optimistic about the future of female nurses. She told Al-Monitor, “The perception of inferiority is gradually receding in society,” explaining, “This is due to the social openness to the world, the media and Iraqis traveling abroad to receive treatment.”

She added, “Families are encouraged to allow women to work in the health sector, given the tempting salary. Women receive around 500,000 Iraqi dinars [$437] upon their employment, and this salary increases with years of service.” Zaidi pointed out that nearly two decades ago, it was not common to see even the current number of female nurses in Iraqi hospitals, but over the last five years, women have been increasingly willing to work in this sector.

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