Iraqi widows go independent after Danish entrepreneurial projects

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2. maj 2016

Two widows have broken out of the entrepreneurial projects created by the Danish NGO, CCPA & the Iraqi Youth Network, which led them to create their own beauty saloon chain called Well-Hair Baghdad. They went into the project as widows without an income and came out of it as independent business owners.

Fathiyah Jassim and Aliyah Fateh created their own after they had made enough money through CCPA's entrepreneurial projects for widows; a project that is supposed to create an income for widows in Iraq, the main focus being refugees, IDP's as well as locals.

The entrepreneurial projects include grocery stores, beauty saloons and sewing studios. In this case, it was a beauty saloon created for local widows whom had lost their husbands in the past thirteen years, due to war and internal conflicts that has swept Iraq since 2003.

The project started with two professionals and thirty widows in a beauty saloon workshop, the participants went through an intensive workshop, five times a week for a whole month on how to work as a hairdresser and run a beauty saloon business. The thirty widows came from two different neighbourhoods in Baghdad: Hay Al-Amel and Karrada, compromising of Shiite, Sunni and Christian women.

The first thirty graduated and were donated equipment through funds from the Danish NGO, Operation Day's Work. The saloon was opened at the Democratic Women's Center that was shared by the thirty women, whom split the working hours between each other and kept a percentage of the income, whilst the rest went to the rent of the beauty saloon.

Like the other projects, this led to two members deciding to split from the project and create their own business from money they made through CCPA's entrepreneurial project. The investment proved successful and now they have opened their own chain with three beauty saloons in Baghdad, hiring their own staff. The Iraqi Youth Network leadership went to visit their old friends and found a busy business, the two successful businesswomen were extremely happy to see a familiar face in the Baghdad coordinator, Abdel-Karim Abbas whom conducted the first hairdresser workshop after receiving coaching and funds from the Danish organisations, CCPA & Operation Day's Work.

The two women were asked how they were doing, one of them Fathiyah Jassim, known as Umm Hassan answered; "Before the Iraqi Youth Network and our Danish friends at CCPA came, we were more or less in a state where we had no income and on top that no welfare from the state, our only source of income were our husbands, but unfortunately for us we lost them in this past God forsaken decade." And she continued; "... so after the workshop, we learned to work as hairdressers and learning how to run a business we more or less got the hang of it. Now we're not just helpless widows looking for charity... we're independent business owners, successful ones as well."

The idea for the entrepreneurial project came as CCPA had noticed that the situation in Iraq and the situation of the widows were in conflict with each other; there was an high unemployment rate amongst women and usually, it is the man whom provides for the family, but with the political situation taken into consideration which has left hundreds of thousands of widows with no husband and therefore no income, with no investment in work job creation and on top of that, little-to-no welfare.

The women are left to themselves, forced to get their kids into child labour, which in return leaves the children illiterate and without education. But in this case, CCPA and the Iraqi Youth Network break the cycle. The women became independent and took care of themselves economically as working single mothers, whilst their children are also taking care of by the Iraqi Youth Network, which keeps them busy with sports, cultural and after-school activities whilst mom is working and making a living.

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