Thursday, December 14, 2006

As you know I meet many famous people. It's a lot of fun sometimes. Sometimes it's a real thrill. Rarely is it a true honor.

Today was one of those times.

A woman came up to me. An attractive woman. She had an aura of grace and confidence combined that I rarely see.

Her name is Nesreen Barwari. She is from Iraq.

NESREEN BARWARI born in Baghdad, was the only daughter among nine children. In 1981 at the age of 14 Barwari and members of her family became political prisoners. Ten years later, following the 1991 war, she became a refugee in the mountains of Turkey.

After completing undergraduate studies at Baghdad University in architectural engineering and urban planning, Barwari attended Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government where she received her Masters in public policy and management in 1999.

Barwari's career began in an emergency relief program with the International Organization for Migration which functioned in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees assisting refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes in destroyed communities in the Kurdistan Region following the 1991 war in Iraq.

Barwari continued with the UN Iraq Relief Coordination Unit, a division of the erstwhile United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs to support the coordination of relief efforts primarily in reconstruction and resettlement, but also in health and education, water and sanitation, agriculture, and landmine activities. Upon commencement of the oil-for-food program, she continued with the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq supporting the coordination of a greatly expanded and exceptionally well funded program.

During the oil-for-food program Barwari served as the first local staff member in Iraq to head a United Nations field office (UN-Habitat, Duhok) where she focused on reconstruction and resettlement of hundreds of destroyed communities.

Upon completion of graduate studies in public policy and management Barwari was appointed Minister of Reconstruction and Development in the Kurdistan Regional Government. Following the April 2003 fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein, Barwari served in three interim national governments in Baghdad as Minister of Municipalities & Public Works, one of few ministers to be retained.

Barwari was honored by the Arab League with 'Distinction in Public Participation' as one of ten distinguished women from the Arab world, the United Nations, by the UN Human Settlement Programme with the 'UN Scroll of Honour, 2003') for "outstanding commitment to the welfare of displaced and vulnerable persons in Northern Iraq" and at the World Economic Forum at Davos, as a prominent leader and chosen as a member of the Young Global Leaders organization.

(Harvard University Institute of Politics)

What that article DOESN'T say is that during the time she served as an Iraqi Government Minister there were three attempts to assassinate her.

I could feel a force coming from her that I cannot explain. My voice almost cracked as I referred to Iraq by saying, "I just don't know what to say anymore". She replied, "Neither do I. We can only hope that someday the situation improves".

She is one of those women you point out to all young girls and young women and say, "SHE is what you want to be".

Very cool. Gotta love the women that overcome so much. And the men too.
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