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Awham remembers the year the war started in Iraq, and the additional hardships she faced after her husband fell ill and lost his job. “I was left to care for my four children with no income. My father had pulled me out of school to arrange my marriage, and I had no skills to start any type of work that could support my family.”
Through a friend, Awham heard about Women for Women International. “I wanted to visit the centre before enrolling in the programme. When I saw it I thought, ‘This is the open door I was waiting for.’ Women for Women was a great opportunity for me.”
The training sessions helped Awham develop valuable skills and gain new insights, which she used to transform her life. “I learned a lot from the training on health, which has helped me to maintain a healthy environment for my children. Because of the training on women’s rights and education, I now insist that my two daughters finish their schooling and become independent before they start thinking about marriage. I have also formed a women’s group, and we are thinking of starting our own small business.
“After graduating, I started my own small business at home using the tailoring skills I learned to provide services to my neighbours and family members. Through this, I managed to provide enough income for my family.”
With her greater sense of connection to her community, Awham also began to volunteer at an interfaith church, where she teaches Muslim and Christian women how to tailor. Since she began these classes, the church has hosted five different gallery events for widows and divorced women participants to sell their products. “I have such a great feeling when I see myself helping other women and being a part of their life changing. I thank Women for Women and understand how their staff must feel when they provide such great opportunities. In gaining trust in ourselves we become useful members of our community, and we can do something to make it better.”
Awham joined a group of women who tailor laundry bags for Andaz Hotels. At first, she volunteered to review her colleagues’ work and provide guidance, and filled in for the vocational trainer on leave. Given her leadership, enthusiasm, and commitment, Women for Women International contracted her to lead tailoring sessions for newly enrolled women in the programme.
“Women for Women International helps make women more independent, escape their communities’ narrow perspectives on women, understand the real meaning of gender equality, and understand how to be economically independent. I believe this is the way that women will have a voice and make decisions to support their families and their communities.”
While this is a photo of a Women for Women graduate, this photo is representative of the woman featured in the story, for privacy or security concerns.