Iraq – March 7 2018

Life after ISIS: Empowering women in Iraq

When ISIS took over the Iraqi towns of Mosul and Sinjar in 2014 many of the men and boys were murdered, and countless women and girls were captured. The women that survived were forced to flee, leaving behind their homes, livelihoods, and communities.

Having lost most, or all, of their male relatives to violent regime change, many women found themselves the sole providers for their remaining family members. Discriminated against and marginalised because of their gender, they faced a difficult future as refugees in their own country, living in temporary shelters, and with little or no income.

But three years on from the violence that tore apart their families, women and girls in the Khanke refugee camp in Duhok, Iraq, are rebuilding their lives. With support from SOS Children’s Villages vocational training courses, and their own will to succeed, they are learning new and marketable skills, and setting up their own businesses – an important step on the path towards financial independence.

The vocational training programme, launched by SOS Children’s Villages last September in conjunction with the Duhok Directorate of Youth, also teaches women and girls business development skills such as marketing strategies, market assessment skills and small business development.

“The project has had a big effect on all of us, not just practically but emotionally too. It meant we were able to get away from the camps for a time and forget about all the hardships and challenges we faced.”

Shirin Berdo, an Iraqi refugee at the Khanke camp
Once their training is complete, graduates can exhibit their merchandise at the Duhok Shopping Mall, building valuable business contacts within the community. They are also supplied with all the tools and equipment they will need to get their businesses off the ground.

But the programme is doing more than just providing women with the training and tools they need to set up their own businesses. Most importantly, it is empowering women and girls to reclaim their independence, their confidence, and their self-respect.

“The training had a big economic impact on all of us. The exhibition helped merchandise our products and motivated us to learn how to develop our handicraft business in the future.”

Katreen, an Iraqi refugee at the Khanke camp