Our Secure Future highlights the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF), a 2023 recipient of the Distinguished Partners for Women, Peace and Security Award.
Award Winner: The Free Yezidi Foundation
Pari Ibrahim, Executive Director
In 2022, the Mobilizing Men as Partners for Women, Peace, and Security presented the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF) with the Distinguished Partners for Women, Peace, and Security Award for their tremendous work supporting women from the Yezidi community in Iraq and the diaspora. In 2014, the Yezidi ethno-religious minority community in Iraq faced genocide at the hands of ISIS that resulted in mass killings, forced conversions, the enslavement of over 6,000 Yezidi women and children, and the displacement of over 400,000 Yezidis. Today, the community continues to suffer the lasting effects of genocide. Over 180,000 Yezidis are still internally displaced with little likelihood of returning to their homes and almost 3,000 remain missing.
To help support this community, FYF “promotes the rights and well-being of Yezidis in Iraq and the diaspora, with an emphasis on women’s empowerment, the pursuit of justice, and helping the community rebuild through trauma treatment, education, training, and economic development.” They focus on women becoming changemakers and community leaders in civic spaces.
Promoting Wellbeing and Livelihoods: The Enterprise and Training Center
As one of the Distinguished Partners for Women, Peace, and Security Award recipients, FYF used its funds to hire and support staff from the displaced communities it serves, as well as buy supplies and provide transportation for their Enterprise and Training Center (ETC) outside Khanke IDP camp in Duhok. In many cases, these staff positions do not fall under their restricted grants, but are critical to advancing the organization’s mission and supporting women.
The ETC sustainably empowers women to reduce their vulnerabilities through skills training, jobs placement, and income generation activities. At the ETC, female artisans are trained in crafting and marketing one-of-a-kind items, including the Chonky Animals® product line of hand knitted stuffed animals and made-to-order traditional carpets. Adjacent to the ETC is FYF's Sugar is Sweet Bakery and Cafe run by Yezidi women.
Many of the ETC’s beneficiaries have become the primary breadwinners of their families, challenging harmful gender norms and power imbalances within their communities. Men are beginning to see the value of educating women and are encouraging their wives, sisters, and daughters to pursue an education, so they can contribute to their families’ livelihoods.
The funding also helped expand the ETC’s product lines to more local and national markets. The US Consulate in Erbil, for example, has a market where the ETC’s products have quickly become a bestseller. The ETC empowers women and survivors to heal, recover, and reclaim their agencies. ETC beneficiaries receive support from FYF to open bank accounts to give them even greater control over how their money is used.
Finally, FYF’s programming targets those most vulnerable among women and survivor groups. FYF is the only Yezidi organization who accepts and supports women with children born of rape. So often, these women are ostracized from their families and communities. FYF recognizes their value and worth and ensures they are also empowered to live in safety and security.
The Free Yezidi Foundation continues to shed light on the ongoing impact of the genocide and has been a ray of hope for the community and vulnerable women throughout Iraq. FYF has helped countless Yezidi and other religious and ethnic minority women better integrate into the formal economy and has empowered them to become agents of change in their families and communities.
The Mobilizing Men as Partners for Women, Peace, and Security and Our Secure Future are honored to support their critical work.