Nadima Changes the Story for Young Brides Traumatized by ISIS

Nadima’s vision was so clear, she could imagine every element. She dreamed of opening a glamorous salon for women. The interior would be spacious and clean; painted a chic charcoal grey with mirrors and trim details picked out in gold.

It would be a comfortable space for women to get ready for special occasions, especially for brides. She would rent wedding gowns and party dresses, and offer treatments to make each customer feel special.

In any city in the world, this salon would fit in perfectly. But Nadima doesn’t live in any city in the world. She lives in a camp for families displaced by ISIS, in a rural part of northern Iraq. Could Nadima’s vision work in a camp setting?

Many were skeptical. They thought Nadima’s vision too grand—too fancy for this place, too beautiful for these people.

During their appointments, salon clients are treated to services that make them feel special, and that push back the memories of the past, if only for a while. Photo by Erin Wilson/PLC.

The skeptics were wrong.

On this morning, the staff began working by 6 am. In Iraq’s Yazidi culture, wedding ceremonies usually begin at 9 am, and the whole event is wrapped up by the afternoon. In three busy hours, salon staff did hair, make-up, and nails for a party of six. Hours before neighboring businesses opened, Nadima had already had a successful day.   

Nadima’s clientele is ready for some beauty in their lives. Most of the brides that sit patiently as their long hair is twisted into up-dos were children when they were forced from their homes by a group that sought to exterminate them. Their lives have been steeped in trauma and loss. They watched surviving relatives cobble together a new, temporary life in this camp. Now adults themselves, these young women are stepping into new lives of their own. And they want the start of that new life with their husbands to be memorable and lovely.

Nadima may advertise salon services for her business, but she’s actually in the business of changing stories, and of remaking memories.

One of our jobs coaches, Hivi, gets a quick trim from salon staff. Photo by Erin Wilson/PLC.

Business is so successful that Nadima is firming up plans to expand. She will introduce skin treatments and more options for women wanting event-worthy frocks. Expanding a business in a camp can be complicated, as the competition for space can be fierce. But our job coaches are advocating on Nadima’s behalf with the camp management. When we provide grants to open new businesses, that’s just the first step in our journey with new owners. There are always follow-up visits, coaching, and advocacy when needed, to make sure that everyone has the best chance to succeed.

Partnering to create businesses that dignify, lift up the community, and provide opportunities—these are just some of the values we bake into the process of job creation. This kind of partnership is what what we invite you into. Join us.