Safa has this innate ability to create beauty, crafting aesthetics through painting, fashion design, sewing, and even as a hairdresser. Her mobile phone is bursting with photographic evidence of her creative work, from beautifully coiffed brides with dramatic makeup, to the delicate stitchings of a Kurdish dress.

Road to Independence

Safa dreams of owning her own business one day, channeling this passion for beauty into an opportunity for independence.

Safa is now working towards this dream as a student at our WorkWell center in northern Iraq, a tech space for young refugees to become entrepreneurs, coders, and freelancers. “I had no computer in my house as my family was so poor. Now I am able to get much information and I think I can get a good job through this,” she tells us with excited anticipation.

It has not been a simple journey for Safa, who was displaced from her home and now lives in northern Iraq’s city of Dohuk. The opportunities we so often take for granted were never afforded to her, the obstacles between her dreams and reality seemingly momentous.

But this didn’t stop her; she had a dream and she fought for it.

Safa’s Story

When Safa took her final high school exams, she had no books to study from. She had to leave them in Mosul when ISIS came. Her family left with nothing but the clothes on their backs, her school books left behind in the home she will never go back to.

As she wrote her exams Safa drew from what she could remember from the days back at school. She had gone through a lot since then—escaping Mosul by the River Tigris into Kurdistan, living in an abandoned school for six months, then eventually making her way to a refugee camp in Dohuk.

She fought hard and passed all her exams, then fought even harder when she was told by her father she could not study English—a language she has discovered a great passion for.

When her parents refused to support her in her studies, Safa did it anyway. She took on a full-time job to fund her education, working and studying every day from eight in the morning until ten at night.

“I didn’t need anything other than to speak English,” she remembers, as she now weaves together well-crafted English sentences of dreams and ambition.

Safa has embraced learning at our Workwell Center in Dohuk. Photo by Erin Wilson/Preemptive Love


Now at Workwell, Safa has honed her English and is diving into the world of computers and accounting. These weren’t topics that have ever piqued her attention—in fact, she feared she couldn’t do it at all—but she was drawn to them simply because of the challenge. And through this, she has found an array of avenues to pursue her many dreams.

In a life of obstacles, Safa has powered on, despite the grief she had endured through the injustice of displacement and the loss of home and community. Safa was not going to let this get in the way of all that she knew she could be.

“I have many dreams,” she says. “Women must fight to achieve their dreams and not give up.”

Help women like Safa rise up and achieve their dreams.