A by-women-for-women magazine is leading the fight against gender inequality and discrimination in the Middle East.
ZHIN Magazine, a print and online news publication based in North Iraq, encourages women and girls to take a front seat in society.
The publication’s aim is to inspire women to raise their voices and educate them in how to exercise their rights.
Editor-in-chief of ZHIN Magazine, Avan Faris Jaff, 32, said: “The women are ready for a change. They want to live their life as any other women in a modern society.”
Aimed at women aged 18-40, the magazine enjoys a growing readership and is a platform for success stories of independent women in Kurdistan, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.
ZHIN’s goal is to make women aware of their choices and to offer them opportunities, helping them grow and speak up in a male-dominated and traditional society.
Miss Jaff said: “Where some still believe that women have a single role to play in society, women realize more and more they do not want to adhere to old traditions.”
She added: “A big task lies ahead for these women; they want change, but our political system and tradition make it difficult. At the same time, women realise that change needs to come from them.”
INSPIRING: The magazine showcases successful women in the region
The average reader of ZHIN is interested in politics, economics, society, and fashion and beauty.
“She finds in ZHIN a sister, a platform, where she can share her ideas and where she can absorb information, to enhance her own identity,” Miss Jaff said.
Based in the city of Erbil, ZHIN faces challenges within the Kurdish media market, as political parties own most of the news landscape in Iraq.
Financial support comes from International Media Support (IMS), which covers 50% of the magazine’s expenses.
IMS, an organisation that supports and promotes free and professional media, brought ZHIN in Iraq to life.
Programme manager for Iraq, Osama Al-Habahbeh, 61, who worked with IMS for 10 years said: “Media can play a positive role when it comes to empowering women.”
IMS provides ZHIN with advice, consultancy, and training on marketing and sustainability, helping the publication to run independently in the future.
Their focus for 2019 is to address the issue of social cohesion and peaceful co-existence after Iraq defeated the Islamic State in 2017.
Mr Al-Habahbeh said: “Iraq is so fragmented now and there is hate-speech between ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq.”
He added: “That is the reason we focus on how we can bridge the gap between ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and how women can play a role in this.”
ZHIN’s success in Iraq may inspire other countries and he said it could become a role model for similar projects in Syria, Egypt or Libya.
Feature image shows Avan Faris Jaff.
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