In honor of International Women’s Day, AMAR U.S. is reflecting upon women in our community who dare. Today, we want to honor the Iraqi girls and young women who receive AMAR services, and despite hardship, are looking to their future with hope: here are their stories.
Empowered girls grow up to become empowered women, so we at AMAR value the opportunity to inspire young Iraqi women to find their inner power. Providing girls with an education and job skills allows them to dream bigger and reach higher, and we are proud to have helped to teach, inspire, and grow resilient young women this International Women’s Day.
Fourteen-year-old Hujran loved to go to school. Her dream was to obtain a high school diploma; however, her mother had previously pulled her out of school after the death of her father and oldest brother. Due to harsh circumstances, and conflict surrounding her family, Hujran could not fulfill her dream. However, once she had the opportunity to continue her education, she enrolled in AMAR’s INVEST Center literacy courses. She had the opportunity to continue learning how to read and write.
“Now, I can write and read well, and I really wish to complete my studies.”
– Hujran, INVEST Literacy Student
Fourteen-year-old Fatima also had the chance to continue her education through AMAR’s camp school. Fatima fled with her family from Baraboush Shingal in the summer of 2014 and continued until they settled in Mamillion. The camp school gave her a place to learn and be a fourteen-year-old girl again following months of displacement. She took English and Kurdish lessons and enjoyed her studies greatly.
Learning job skills through AMAR’s INVEST Centers was another way to empower young women and help them channel their experiences of hardship into creating something new.
Khadia used her INVEST Center education to chase her dreams. In 2014, Khadia and her family of 14 had to flee their home to escape from ISIS. They traveled around Syria and Iraq in search of safety, and after many months, they settled in Shariya camp. As one of the oldest children in her family, Khadia knew she would have to step up, and provide for her mother and siblings. When she heard about AMAR’s INVEST Center courses, she knew it was the perfect opportunity for her.
“I’d always wanted to be a designer, so I studied sewing for two months, and worked really hard the whole time. What was great was that my teacher didn’t just teach me sewing, she taught me basic business skills and helped me develop confidence as a business woman. With my new skills, I set up my own business in early 2016, and business has been growing every day!”
– Khadia, INVEST Sewing Student
Khadia was able to earn enough to purchase a sewing machine and set up a workshop in her house. She would design and make clothes by hand, and her brother would sell her designs in marketplaces and shops around the camp. Khadia worked every day to make cool and affordable clothing for children and adults, using her training from AMAR INVEST Centers, and supporting her family while pursuing a new passion.
“My shop is called ‘Sewing’ so maybe I’ll set up ‘Sewing II’!”
Zahra and Samir also struggled to support their large family before AMAR. Before ISIS’ presence in Iraq, they had worked on their family farms, but escaping meant they had to start all over. They heard about AMAR’s INVEST Centers’ hairdressing courses and knew it would be a great opportunity.
“Studying hairdressing at AMAR’s center helped us forget everything we’ve been through.”
– Zahra and Samir, INVEST Hairdressing Students
After AMAR’s training, they set up their own salon, “Zahra”. They finally had a regular income to support themselves and their nine relatives, and they enjoyed the work they were doing. They would use their savings to invest in expanding their business; due to demand for affordable items, they began renting out wedding dresses as well. “Zahra” became a mobile health and beauty center, and they continued to save to make their business a permanent fixture in the camp. They wanted their community to have access to an ordinary life and things that can bring a smile to their face, despite limited resources. Zahra and Samir’s studies at the AMAR INVEST Center not only improved their quality of life, but affected their entire community, as well.
Currently, 1.6 million Iraqi girls are in need of humanitarian assistance. Thanks to AMAR participants and staff, as well as AMAR’s generous donors, our programming can continue to provide young women in Iraq with the education and resources they need to continue to dream BIG.