UN program gives confidence to women, refugees and IDPs in starting their own businesses

As a beacon of light in the struggling economy in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and with the assistance from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) the region is experiencing a spike in female and refugee entrepreneurs.


UNIDO’s Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) with funding from the Government of Japan provided training to a total of 164 participants (103 in Erbil and 61 in Koya) earlier this year. 90 are from the host community, 25 are IDPs and 49 refugees. 78 of the total participants were female.
“This program is important because most of the participants are unemployed university graduates,” said Seerwan Jameel, Senior Business Consultant for UNIDO.
Seerwan explained that due to the financial crisis, the Kurdistan Regional Government is no longer employing new university graduates.
“With support, the graduates can establish their own business and possibly provide more employment opportunities within their community,” he said, adding “especially since all of the resources for success of the project are available locally.”
Following the EDP training, participants then competed for an award of tools, equipment and materials needed to start their own businesses.
A total of 30 entrepreneurs in Erbil and 17 in Koya received support in order to turn their ideas into a profitable business.
Of the 17 beneficiaries chosen in Koya, over half of them were women.
Shawin Dlawar Sadraldin is one such woman.
With the support she received, Shawin was able to start her own business as a honey bee farmer, making her the first female in Koya to work in an industry dominated by men.
“This project is important because honey is healthy, especially natural and organic honey which is difficult to find here in Kurdistan,” she explained, adding that each bee hive can produce from 5-7 kilos of honey.
Shawin, an alumni of Koya University found it difficult to find employment after graduating last year.
She was happy to take part in the EDP program conducted in partnership with Koya University, which provided 120 hours of education over an eight-week period that including technical and soft skills training.
Since starting her business in June, Shawin said she has collected a total of 90 kilos of honey. Each kilo sells for $60.
“I will continue to work in this field,” Shawin, age 25, said. “I hope to open my own shop soon.”
Another Koya University alumna, Dehat Abdul-Rahman Hama was also a chosen beneficiary for her business idea of starting up a fishery.
Since graduating in 2015, Dehat found it difficult to find employment but worked in ice cream and bread-making factories to earn money, hoping to own her own business one day.
Within two months of completing the EDP program and receiving assistance, Dehat is now the first woman in Koya running her own business as a fish farmer.
She now has over 4,000 fish in two suspended ponds on the outskirts of Koya.
Dehat said her brother supports and helps her run the fishery, and they have hired one employee to feed the fish daily.
“The fish I am raising here are given good food. Since we don’t feed them any chemicals, they are organic and healthier,” she added.
Dahat explained that it will take approximately 6-7 months for the fish to be ready to sell and she is looking forward to bringing in her first profit.
“The UNIDO training helped me both mentally and financially,” Dehat explained. “Now that I know more about how to run my own business, if I have a new idea in the future, the information and training they gave me will still be beneficial.”
Another new business owner is a Syrian refugee who took part in the EDP training provided in Erbil.
Abdulaziz Othman, age 32 from Hasakah, graduated university with a degree in Pharmacology and then moved to the Kurdistan Region seven-and-a-half years ago.
However, since he was 12-years-old and throughout university, Abdulaziz helped his father and older brother who worked in scaffolding and woodwork, which helped him develop skills for building homes.
Until June of this year, he worked for different companies and people building housing foundations.
“Before the training, it was very difficult working in this field and to make money,” Abdulaziz explained. “I was very depressed. After the training I had confidence in myself to do anything I wanted.”
With the idea of starting his own business in scaffolding, UNIDO provided him with support beams and wood which helped him kick start this business.
He also mentioned that before owning his own business, no one in his community knew who he was. Now that he has his business, people look up to him and he is happy to be able to provide employment for people who have been unable to find substantial work.
“The UNIDO training had much more benefits for me than just the physical support,” Abdulaziz said.
The EDP program is part of UNIDO’s project to “enhance youth employability among Syrian refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and host communities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq” with support from the Government of Japan.

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