Empowering and ensuring the equal participation of women in Iraq’s development journey is key to sustainable stability and growth. However, the recent COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated the impact on women by increasing economic instability, social insecurity, unpaid care work, and domestic violence. The crises have presented an opportunity for the women of Iraq to play a crucial role in the economy.
Through UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization programme, short term cash-for-work employment opportunities are provided to the local community, especially women. The interventions provide short-term employment opportunities to support stabilization and rebuilding efforts across the five liberated governorates from ISIL - Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah Al-Din.
Speaking to 48-year-old widow and single mother of two Najiah Jawad Abid from the Anbar province of Al-Karmah, she says, “After my husband passed away, I had lost hope of being able to financially support my family and meet our needs. This opportunity has given me new hope".
After Najiah lost her husband, she started working as a farmer. Due to physical constraints, she was unable to continue farming. She started a local catering service to meet her family’s growing needs.
On the challenges Najiah faced, she says, “I could not always sell the meals I prepared, and the income was unstable." Besides, the COVID-19 outbreak presented additional challenges to Nijiah’s business. “The pandemic added more hurdles as I lost customers. I needed a stable income to support my family.”
Addressing these challenges head-on, Najiah joined the cash-for-work programme in October this year. She participated in clearing rubble and debris from schools and services buildings which were impacted by the conflict.
Like her colleagues, Najiah was quick to adapt to the new ways of working COVID-19 presents. Ensuring business continuity and making workspaces safer, the programme adopted COVID-19 safety measures, such as wearing protective gear, regular sanitization and social distancing.
Working with Najiaj, 40-year-old mother of three Sahar Mohammed says, "In the current scenario, it is a challenge for men to get jobs while employment opportunities for women are nearly nonexistent. When I heard about the cash-for-work opportunity, I grabbed onto it to support my family during these challenging times.”
Currently, Sahar and her children live with her sister's family. She is separated from her husband, who was injured during the conflict. Through her earnings, she supports the running of the household and provides for her ailing mother’s medical treatment.
"Although it is a temporary job, the earnings from the cash-for-work programme has helped the family. I hope more such opportunities are created," Sahar adds.
To promote the dignity of Iraqis as they rebuild, through the cash-for-work programme, over 30,000 people, including 5,300 women, have been provided short term employment till date.