Iraqi Women Embrace Entrepreneurship

Iraqi Village Builds Women’s Center
Individuals from all sects work together to make clothing for children.

“A woman from the village of Assriya, takes advantage of a new $230,000, 400-square-meter Women’s Center. Local residents have sewn dozens of dresses, sold many in the local market, and are now looking to expand their business enterprise.” U.S Army Corps of Engineers Photo

Passing on the Good News

Background: From the 1930’s through 1958, the Iraqi people enjoyed some measure of personal safety, higher education and commerce. A military coup, in 1958, reversed the “western-leaning” policies of the previous monarchy, nationalized British oil interests, attempted to re-distribute wealth and established alliances with Communist nations. A military coup in 1979 began Saddam Hussein’s secular reign of brutal oppression.

By Norris Jones, Gulf Region Central District

BAGHDAD, Jan. 30, 2007 — A small town in north Baghdad Province provides a positive glimpse of Iraq’s future. Assriya Village, located outside Camp Taji, has about 4,600 residents representing all sects.

“Assriya” in Arabic means “modern” and its name exemplifies the way residents treat each other. They worked together to build a Women’s Center that officially opened in August and today that facility is producing apparel for children.

The $230,000, 400-square-meter facility includes 12 sewing machines and 12 computers to encourage female business opportunities. Local residents have sewn dozens of dresses, sold many in the local market, and are now looking to expand their business enterprise.

They are working with Camp Taji to open a store there. They also are contacting Baghdad merchants about the possibility of selling their apparel.

After his father was killed, Sheik Luqman Raheem stepped in and is continuing his work at the center. The 414th Civil Affairs Battalion at Camp Taji was responsible for getting the project funded through the Commander’s Emergency Response Program. USACE oversaw the construction. Capt. William LeFever with the 414th said Luqman has done a good job getting the Women’s Center going and also has plans to open an internet cafe there to generate even more revenue for the facility.

Col. Debra Lewis, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Gulf Region Central District, recently visited the facility and talked to those operating it. “It’s great to see the community’s positive outlook and pride in what the Center represents,” she said.

Lewis brought with her 16 boxes of fabric, thread and other sewing items donated by Americans wanting to help. (The Daughters of the American Revolution and Seattle churches are among those supporting the effort.) Six of the local women who are part of the work force expressed their sincere appreciation.

Lewis plans to continue seeking stateside support for this facility, and doing whatever else she can, after seeing the impact this is having on the community, she said.

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