Wednesday, March 17, 2010

HerStory: Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is truly a woman's woman. Salbi, an Iraqi-American writer and social activist, is co-founder and president of Women for Women International. Born in Baghdad, Iraq, she came to the United States at the age of 19. Her experience with the Iran–Iraq War sensitized her to the plight of women in war worldwide. She has written and spoken extensively on the use of rape and other forms of violence against women during war. In 1995, President Bill Clinton honored Salbi at the White House for her humanitarian work in Bosnia.

Women for Women International was formed when Salbi and her husband Amjad Atallah, a Palestinian-American, were moved by the plight of the women of the former Yugoslavia, many forced into the now infamous rape and concentration camps. But they ran onto a road block when they realized that there were no organizations in existence to address the situation. Even though they were newlyweds, in lieu of a honeymoon, Salbi and Atallah launched an organization that created “sister-to-sister” connections between sponsors in the United States and female survivors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were greeted with an overwhelming response; a female survivor of the rape camps who had lost her husband and children during the war said, "I thought the world had forgotten us…."

Juiced by the success of their first endeavors, and with the continued support of other concerned individuals, they started Women for Women International with a tiny budget and a small team of dedicated volunteers. Since 1993, Women for Women International has supported women survivors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo, Nigeria, Colombia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. It has assisted more than 243,000 women, distributed more than $80 million in direct aid, and trained thousands of women in rights awareness.

In addition to sponsorships, women can take advantage of microcredit loans. These loans (usually about $80 USD) allow women to start businesses in their communities, become independent, and care for their families (husbands included). It's a proven fact that when you invest in women and girls, there is marked progress. The rate of repayment for the loans overall are at 98%.

Zainab Salbi is a complete inspiration, and she's created a way for us ALL to participate in lifting up other women. Find out more about Women for Women International and get involved!

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