In March 2003,shortly after the United States invaded Iraq, women's rights and gender equity were mentioned as symbolic issues for Iraq's new national agenda. However, as the overall situation in Iraq began to deteriorate after the invasion, the focus on women was lost in the problems and violence facing the country as a whole. When it came time to transform symbolism into action by articulating support and solutions
for the most pressing national issues, women's issues were considered an afterthought at best, a distraction from the “real” issues at worst.
Since then, economic, social and political aftershocks have thrust the country into chaos. Present-day Iraq is plagued by controversial leadership and a lack of infrastructure, transforming the situation for women from one of relative autonomy and security before the war into a national crisis. In 2004, when Women for Women International fi rst surveyed 1,000 Iraqi women, their greatest needs were electricity, jobs and water. Nearly half of their families lacked medical care, education and housing. Top political priorities included securing legal rights for women and the opportunity to vote on the new constitution. Despite the fact that none of the women felt their families' most basic needs were entirely met, 90.6% of women surveyed in 2004 were nevertheless optimistic about the future. As the situation in Iraq has continued to devolve into civil war and challenges to the purpose of the U.S. presence continue to mount, Women for Women International chose once again to talk to Iraqi women because of the belief that women's issues are society's issues, and that analysis of the conditions of women's lives provides reliable insight into the overall strength of a nation. In fall 2007, as part of the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations report series, Women for Women International gathered information from 1,513 Iraqi women about subjects that extended beyond “women's rights” or “women's issues,” delving into the
broader economic, social and political issues that affect all of Iraq. The study began with 279 women participating in Women for Women International's program in Hilla and Karbala completing a questionnaire. Because this did not yield a large or geographically representative sample group, the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), helped to provide access to more than 1,200 women nationwide through women's organizations under the NCCI umbrella.