Out of My Lane
Leveling The Playing Field For Iraqi Women
How does a wildly successful sixty-year-old Republican woman from affluent Orange County, California find herself smack in the middle of the Iraq War?
In the aftermath of 2003’s American-led invasion of Iraq, Congress appropriated $18.4 billion US tax dollars for construction and repair of that country’s infrastructure. Saddam Hussein’s flagrant neglect of the nation he’d ruled for more than two decades had left the land and its people virtually destitute, while he’d built hundreds of palaces to support his gluttonous lifestyle.
Approached by a colleague to draft a plan to ensure that Iraqi women—who’d all but disappeared from public life under Iraq’s increasingly gender-oppressive culture—would be able to play a significant role in the rebuilding of their country, political consultant Eileen Padberg got far more than she’d bargained for. She soon found herself on a military C-130 transport bound for Baghdad’s Green Zone, tapped to execute the plan in a region where a forty-pound flak jacket and boiled beef at the DFAC would replace Eileen Fisher fashions and BBQ on the patio.
Surprisingly, as Padberg would quickly learn, the most formidable obstacle to Iraq’s integration of qualified women back into the workforce was not the country itself, but the US government and military.