DIWANIYAH, Iraq – Dr. Maha Sakban has a message for Iraq's women: "Be prepared."
Sakban, a medical doctor who runs the second women's rights center opened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, said a different kind of Iraqi woman will emerge to play a role in the new Iraqi society.
The new woman, she said, "has to be rehabilitated, educated, and orientated as to what is happening so that so that she can lead her part."
According to Sakban, two decades of war have altered Iraq's population. In her province alone, Sakban said 60 percent of the populace were women. Official population statistics for all of Iraq from 2003 indicate the nation has more men than women but those figures do not take into account the unknown Iraqi casualties from the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam.
The center Sakban runs is located in Diwaniyah (search), some 100 miles south of Baghdad. It was opened in a refurbished building that used to serve as an area to torture Saddam's opponents, according to leaders of the new facility.
The Diwaniyah center, started with assistance from the United States as well as the government of Taiwan, aims to be self sufficient in the short term by teaching and applying skills in computing, cooking, sewing, gymnastics, literacy and English. The center will also offer instruction and assistance in human rights, and protection of women.
Provincial Governor Hazim Al Sha'laan (search) told a large group of women Saturday that they had to participate actively in the new Iraqi democracy.
Sakban described the type of woman she hopes develops because of the center.
"We are trying to be able to make her able to fight again, to stand on her own feet and fight for her rights and to share in political life and decision making," Sakban said.