Women’s Health Workshops and Women's Health Center

After years of hard work and global collaboration, the GIHHR has made significant advancements on the topic of women’s health in Iraq, with the official launch a women’s health center in Kurdistan.

This had been a goal of the Institute since 2015, and began with the Alaei brothers’ proposal to establish several workshops between the State University of New York at Albany and Hawler Medical University in Erbil City, Iraq. These workshops were instrumental in cultivating collaboration between those at the GIHHR and faculty in Iraq, which led to the eventual construction of a women’s health center.

The first of these workshops was hosted at the University at Albany in mid-November of 2015, with the GIHHR inviting several Iraqi scholars to attend various trainings and panels over the course of five days. These presentations covered topics such as female genital mutilation (FGM), reproductive health, violence against women and capacity building for women’s rights in Kurdistan. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback from both sides, it was decided that there would be another workshop between the two universities the following year. This time, the venue was at Hawler Medical University.

In early October of 2016, the Alaei brothers, along with several other physicians and health professionals, made the journey to Iraq to continue the two countries teamwork, and to further address women’s rights in Kurdistan. The trainings given at Hawler focused on substance use, HIV/AIDS, environmental factors with regard to diseases, and barriers for research in Kurdistan, among other topics. These forums were held to point out the factors preventing people from getting the care that they need. Whether it be stigma with the disease, lack of funding, or lack of knowledge, a multitude of possibilities were posed.

Similar to the first workshop, the second was hailed as a success according to the faculty who attended the meetings. In addition to holding presentations on these various issues, these scholars also met with a number of global organizations in order to brainstorm possible solutions to the problems posed in the panels. These organizations were the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), UNICEF, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN Refugee Agency, and The World Health Organization (WHO). Through this cooperation, the GIHHR was able to build and develop global partnerships, which enabled the Institute to call for the launch of a women’s health center in Iraq.

The GIHHR was able to fund the two meetings and help establish a women’s center with the grant accepted by IREX.

The establishment of the health center has been a great step towards improving women’s rights in Iraq, with the facility being run by both full time employees, as well as volunteers specifically trained to work at a health clinic. The GIHHR, however, wants to expand its programs, so it has focused on developing a needs assessment for patients of the clinic. Kamiar Alaei has been working with multiple other partners to create a questionnaire that these women can answer about various aspects of their lives.

In addition to the survey, the GIHHR would like to make in Erbil include programs focusing on mental health and addiction, epidemiology and statistics training. There is also discussion of a conference hosted by Hawler Medical University next year in connection with OBGYN society next year. This collaboration will help the health center receive more comprehensive care.

Further steps by the GIHHR include developing a project set to lower maternal mortality and morbidity in Erbil, though a community-based program. The Institute has recently submitted a grant and it waiting for its approval, so that even more progress can be made in providing care to women in Iraq.


Many people contributed to the success of this program. Some collaborators with the GIHHR included:

Dr. Kamiar Alaei 

Dr. Arash Alaei 

Dr. David Carpenter

Mounia El Kotni

Dr. Dina Refki 

Dr. Julia Hastings 

Dr. Roxana Moslehi

The GIHHR Coordinators 

Natalie Turner

Sue Jean Kim

Sarah Heath

Natalina Iamarino

Frankie Rizzo

Rajanie Bhudeo


Workshop at Hawler Medical University
Hawler Medical University in collaboration with the University at Albany - State University of New York and with the support of IREX organized a workshop at the College of Medicine on the 9th and 10th of October 2016. The workshop sessions included the topics of environmental barriers to health, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse, women and health and war and mental health. The workshop was organized by a consortium of experts from the University from the University at Albany and a number of other universities. More than 70 faculty staff participated in the different sessions of the workshop and several one-to-one meeting with the visiting experts were organized.


The Center for Research and Education in Women's Health

Overview of GIHHR projects in Iraq

  • Integration of Mental Health in Maternal Health Services.
  • Increase access to the right to health for women.