Eileen Padberg Goes to Iraq in Support of Women Contractors 10/14/2004


Oct 14, 2004, Eileen Padberg — Women In Leadership

WIL Board Member Eileen Padberg has been in IRAQ for more than 6 months as a civilian helping to build a democracy that includes women contractors. She emailed us this week:

On a very sad note, my brother passed away on September 28th. Heart attack at age 58! I had been in Basra (south of Baghdad) with members of our Water Sector Team providing Operations and Maintenance Training seminars. I rushed off the next morning to Las Vegas to be with my nieces and sister-in-law. My friend Julie Wright flew over from California to support me. I did manage to spend one night in California, slept in my very own bed and showered in my own shower! I am still very sad and will need to find a way to deal with this terrible loss.

As I have said, all security reports indicate that the violence will escalate here up through the election – and today, we definitely were reminded of how true that is. I have mentioned the Green Zone Café, less than a quarter of a mile from our office – a lot of us like to eat there. But while I was in the US, a bomb was found in the air conditioning unit and our security as well as the Embassy security issued a “do not visit” mandate last week. Well today, a suicide bomber hit the Green Zone Café and another suicide bomber hit the Haji Market (a little Iraqi Bazarre less than a quarter of a mile from our office in the opposite direction of the GZC). We are all pretty shaken here – we could feel the impact. Our entire building rattled. Way too close and as I have said, the insurgents will feel a big victory because they were able to get inside. The good news is that we have accounted for all of our team mates – we have a strict accounting system. Two of our friends in the Electric Sector were just getting ready to walk into the Haji Market and were blown back. Their response when they got back here was gruesome. We had scheduled emergency evacuation practice for this afternoon – so we all knew what to do.

We are all in lock down – no one leaves the office for a while. Those people that were out at the Palace are locked down there.

On to the good news–I am beginning to feel that we might be on the verge of making some progress with regard to opportunities for women. We held an Operations and Maintenance Training seminar in Basra two weeks ago. Our own people told me when I asked why there were no women enrolled, “that women were not interested in operations and maintenance training.” I pushed and recruited 7 women engineers to participate. The response was great. One woman who attended said that she had worked for the Water Directorate for 15 years and had never had any training and thought it was extremely valuable. She gave me the names of 9 other women that wanted and needed training. I view this as big victory because our own guys learned a valuable lesson, despite the assurances of the local water director that he “couldn’t find any women that would be interested.”

I am encouraged by continued reports coming out of Washington DC about how important programs like ours are – and of course, I give that speech at least once a day. Just yesterday, two of our design build contractors came to me and asked if Esra and I could find three separate women owned businesses that could provide copying services (there is a lot of data that needs to be copied and distributed) and computer services. Esra and I have been gathering resumes and meeting with various women owned businesses for the past three months. We will come up with several choices! This is exactly what I want to do, provide many women with the ability to start a business or expand their business with work generated by the reconstruction efforts. The victory here is that the design-build contractors came to me with the request. I have been preaching to them for three months –“unless we can guarantee women a real stake in the economy of Iraq, Democracy will not take root and we will have wasted all of our efforts and money.”

Esra was asked to participate in a White House update on the fate of Iraqi women – this is a follow-up to a conference she attended last year. It was held by Under Secretary of State, Paula Dobriansky (she is a big supporter of our program). While in DC, Esra made the rounds of several other “state department” types touting our program and our efforts to help Iraqi women. Esra also met up with our friend the Minister of State for Women who was also visiting Washington.

…Anyway, I hope this catches you up on my life and activities. I hope you are all well. Oh, and one more thing….the one and only day that I was in California, guess what was on my desk ….my absentee ballot. I have been a long time permanent absentee voter, so there it was. I would only say this about that,…..when you vote,…remember the ladies.

Thank you for all you do for me and for keeping me in your prayers. It is very much appreciated.

Source: http://womeninleadership.com:80/eileen_in_iraq.htm

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