Zainab Salbi founded Women for Women International in 1993 to help women in war-torn regions restart their lives in ways that are independent, productive, and secure. The organization connects American women with women in war-torn regions through a tiered sponsorship program that begins with direct financial and emotional support, and leads to greater awareness and understanding of women’s rights. Women for Women International also offers vocational and business skills training to female survivors of war, and provides them with access to income-generation support and affordable microcredit loans. As of November 2007, the organization had delivered $39 million in aid and microcredit loans to 120,000 women.
A native of Iraq who came to the United States at the age of 19, Salbi’s experience with the Iran-Iraq war sensitized her to the plight of women in wars around the world. She has written and spoken extensively on the use of rape and other forms of violence against women during war. “Women who survive war are strong, resilient and courageous – they just need some support dealing with the aftermath of conflict,” she has said. “So, we give them the tools they need to help themselves and their families, while providing them with the education to be leaders and advocates in their communities.”
In 2005, Salbi published her memoir, Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam. In 2006, she published her second book, The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope. She earned a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2001, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies from George Mason University in 1996.