As a native of Iraq who came to the United States at the age of 19, Zainab Salbi experience with the Iran-Iraq war sensitized her to the plight of women in war worldwide. She has written and spoken extensively on the use of rape and other forms of violence against women during war. Her work has been featured in major media outlets including THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW and the WASHINGTON POST. In 1995, President Clinton honored Salbi at the White House for her humanitarian work in Bosnia.
In the early 1990's, newlyweds Zainab Salbi and Amjad Atallah were deeply moved by the plight of the women of the former Yugoslavia, many forced into the now infamous rape and concentration camps. They wanted to volunteer to help, but were unable to locate an organization that addressed these injustices and egregious wrongs.
In lieu of a honeymoon, Salbi and Atallah, with the support of the All Souls Unitarian Church, traveled to Croatia to distribute much needed supplies and money. They were greeted with an overwhelming response; a woman survivor of the rape camps who had lost her husband and children during the war said, "I thought the world had forgotten us…."
They returned to the United States with a mission. With the continued support of other concerned individuals, they started Women for Women International with a shoestring budget and a small team of dedicated volunteers. Since 1993, Women for Women International has supported women survivors of war in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Colombia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has assisted more than 24,000 women, and has distributed nearly $14 million in direct aid and microcredit loans, trained thousands of women in rights awareness, and helped thousands more to start their own small businesses.