For decades and due to the cultural taboos that have been ruling the Iraqi society, the roles that Iraqi women and girls could play in the society have been extremely limited. Compared to men and boys, Iraqi women and girls aren’t offered equal opportunities that assist them to achieve independence or support their families.
After the war of 2003, plenty of changes happened in the country that opened the door for women to participate in the labor force. Women’s help was needed as a lot of men were killed either during the war of 2003 or later in 2014 as ISIS emerged and captured several Iraqi cities.
Women have adapted to work both indoor and outdoor, yet they haven’t been close to being equal to men in payments and rights. The society specified certain fields to be majorly reserved by women including teaching or nursery which created a gap that got filled by men
Until this day, we still can notice the absence of women in certain fields including politics, management, and technology.
Globally, women and girls with special needs are likely to face a higher level of discrimination and Iraq is no exception to this. With the presence of social restrictions that Iraqi women and girls face in general, the ones with disabilities have more obstacles to overcome.
That’s why our Iraqi society needs female activists who can empower other women to reshape the society’s models in a way that allows them all to gain more power over their lives.
Aya al-Qaisi, who is an Iraqi TV presenter and an activist, is our honored guest for today to talk about her passion and bravery that inspired her to follow her dream. While Aya suffered from cancer in an early age of her life, she grew up to become an active member in the Iraqi society that encourages other women to take the lead for their lives and make positive changes.
Can you give us an introduction about yourself and your work?
I am Aya al-Qaisi, and I am originally from Baghdad. I studied English Literature at the University. Now, I work as a TV presenter for UTV, which is a well know Iraqi TV channel.
Tell us your story with cancer. What are the important lessons you learned from that painful experience?
My story with cancer started from a young age. I was only six years old when I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in my right leg and that led to amputating my leg and receiving radiation therapy. The best way to describe it is to say that it was an innocent experience as I was a kid back when it happened. What I can say is that it was a phase filled with a lot of doubt.
Tell us your story with journalism and media. When did your passion grow for them and how did it lead you to work in the field?
Although my journey began only two years ago, my passion for the media field started back in high school years. I spent a year searching and acquiring knowledge about the field and later I got the chance to work for a social media platform and from thereon I transferred to a TV station.
During these years of working in the media field, have you experienced any discrimination due to being a woman or due to having a prosthetic leg?
I indeed faced obstacles due to a couple of reasons, the first reason was due to my young age as I entered the media field when I was only 21 years old. The second reason was due to being a woman with special needs working in this field on the Iraqi screen. My continuous hard work and insistence both helped me hold out and work even harder and harder for it.
Aside from the society’s acceptance, how would you describe your family’ reaction to the work you do?
My family’s reaction was quite tense back when I started working in the field, but now I can say that it became the opposite.
Based on your experience, how do you think the entrance of Iraqi women in the field of journalism and media can make a positive impact in the Iraqi society?
Having women participating in all fields and entering the labor market can make a huge difference since women, in general, own their special mentality, thoughts, and perspectives about certain things. The field of journalism and media particularly requires them to be well-educated and distinctive so that they become successful presenters.
What’s your message to all the brave Iraqi activists like yourself?
My message to them is to show resilience and to always challenge themselves, their society, and even their families to reach success because any woman or girl can be the reason why another one changes for the better.