Don’t let her background fool you…
Zainab Salbi is the daughter of Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot. She grew up under extreme conditions in Iraq and was oppressed throughout much of her adolescent life.
But Zainab’s childhood does not define her…
Zainab started a new chapter of her life and founded Women for Women International – an organization that helps women survivors of war – and earned her global recognition.
Her accomplishments are endless:
- Bestselling author of Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam, The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope, and If You Knew Me You Would Care.
- Recognition from President Bill Clinton for her work in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1993).
- Recipient of the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award (2010).
- Member of the members of the Clinton Global Initiative Lead program.
- The Guardian’s Top 100 Women: Activists and Campaigners.
- A Female Faith Heroine by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
She’s a modern day hero.
Learn about how Zainab and her foundation Women for Women International are changing the lives of women around the world in this exclusive interview…
Interview with Zainab Salbi
What’s Women for Women International?
Women for Women International is a grassroots non profit organization dedicated to serving women in conflict areas by providing them financial assistance, support network, educational training and vocational skills training.
The organization aims at helping women survivors of wars rebuild their lives by earning an income, being healthy and happy and surrounded with a supportive community.
Why did you create the organization?
There were rape camps and concentration camps in Bosnia in 1994. I didn’t know anything about the country or its people. But I did know that we can not sit and watch atrocities taking place in front of our eyes without doing something.
I tried to volunteer at first and when I couldn’t find any group to volunteer to, I decided to start Women for Women to enable me and other women who cared to reach out to sisters in wars and help them out.
It started with 30 women in 1994 from Bosnia and Croatia and it is now serving more than 300,000 women in eight conflict and post conflict areas.
Can you briefly describe the 12-month program?
We ask each person to sponsor one woman survivor of war by sending her $30 a month for a year only.
In that year, the woman participant exchange pictures and letters with her sponsor, is enrolled in educational and vocational skills training program to rebuild her confidence and self esteem and give her tangible skills to get a job.
Upon her graduation, we aim at helping her earn a living through income generating opportunities.
What countries do you primarily offer support and how many women has the organization helped?
315,000 in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, DRCongo, S. Sudan and Nigeria.
What has been your greatest challenge working at the organization?
Witnessing the horror people commit against each other. I still don’t understand how humans can do some of the things we do to each other.
What has been your greatest success working at the organization?
Seeing women rebuild their lives, stand on their feet, and seeing their smiles. It makes the whole journey worth it.
What has been the most eye opening lesson you’ve learned working with women survivors?
They were my saviors instead of the opposite. They taught me resiliance and an appreciation to life in a most beautiful way.
How has launching Women for Women International changed you?
Working with women survivors of war helped in my own healing from war, displacement and violence. They helped me own my story and share it and understand how this is connected to the larger women story. I am very grateful!
How can women reading this interview help show their support?
Please visit WomenForWomen.org and sponsor a woman.
You may also enjoy my new book If You Knew Me You Would Care for more stories of women survivors of war.
Who is the most inspirational woman in your life? Why?
Nanbito from Congo. When I asked her what does peace means to her, she said:
“Peace is inside my heart. No one can give it to me and no one can take it away from me.”
I call Nanbito my Dalli Lama.
Any other thoughts or advice for our women readers?
Own your story and share your story so other women won’t have to go through what you had to – no matter how big or small you think your story is.
Only when we break our silence can there be healing. It is TIME to tell a new story for women.
Thank you Zainab Salbi for participating in this interview. For more info on Women for Women International and Zainab Salbi, please visit WomenForWomen.org and read If You Knew Me You Would Care, Between Two Worlds and The Other Side of War.