Empowerment Is More Than a Short-Term Solution: Meet 7 of Iraq’s Newest Businesswomen

A year and a half ago, you began helping displaced Iraqis get back on their feet and develop sustainable lives through small business grants. Emergency aid is essential in crisis situations, like the one in Fallujah right now. But families also need long-term answers to the problems caused by conflict and violence. Another step must be taken, once the immediacy of crisis is past.

You make it possible for displaced families to use skills they already have to provide for their families and, when it’s safe to return home, to rebuild their lives there.

Recently we met seven women from Fallujah and Diyala, forced north by ISIS from their homes in central Iraq. When we first asked the women what skills they have, we got the same answer we hear so often: “We don’t know how to do anything!”

But some gentle probing revealed that all of the women know how to sew. Not only do they know how, but they LOVE to sew, and were eager to use their skill as a means to take care of their families.

We were able to set up each woman with a sewing machine and table. They were purchased in bulk, so we could negotiate the best price possible. It’s difficult to find high-quality sewing machines in Iraq. Newer machines are flimsy and expensive. So we bought the best quality we could find: sturdy, easy-to-repair, reconditioned machines brought over from Europe.

We also helped each  woman buy all of the basic supplies they would need to construct beautiful garments. We took them to the sewing section of the local bazaar, gave them cash in hand to make their purchases, and walked them through the process of asking for receipts. The purchasing process itself was an important opportunity to teach basic business skills.

The seamstresses work from home, allowing them to keep overhead costs low and fit their sewing around family obligations. For these seven women, your investment of $180 each set them up in business. And now they are providing for their families.

We’re continuing to follow up with each seamstress, ensuring their businesses are on track, addressing any hurdles that come up, and encouraging them in their work. It is gratifying to see how quickly the women were able to start earning an income!

Look for more stories in the coming weeks of these women you are investing in. When you show up, hope flourishes!