24-year-old Sorour from Baqubah, Diyala, has been severely affected by years of instability in Iraq. During the liberation from ISIL, while she was still in college, her family was forced to leave their home. It uprooted Sorour's life overnight and abruptly stalled her education.
On returning home after liberation, Sorour was able to restart her college education. "I have lived in Diyala all my life. After graduating from college, I looked for job opportunities. I wanted to explore starting a bakery business, especially the kind that sells high quality and specialized cakes for special occasions," she shares. She has a degree in Sharia and Islamic Studies from the University of Diyala.
After years of conflict coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, young Iraqis have been most affected by the economic impacts of work and lack of adequate job opportunities. Sorour is among the many young people that have been impacted. Even though she was a qualified graduate, she could not get a job or raise funds to start a business.
This was when Sorour came across a cash-for-work job opportunity advertised in her neighborhood. "I saw this as the perfect opportunity to earn money and use the savings to start my dream business." She earned around US$ 800 for 40 days (about one and a half months) of employment. She worked on rehabilitating, cleaning and rehabilitating streets that were damaged during the liberation from ISIL.
With the savings from her salary, Sorour bought baking equipment and raw material to start a bakery. "Today, a small bakery based out of my home is up and running. I was able to purchase baking tins and decorating tools to kickstart the business. It cost me IQD 600,000 (approximately US$400)." The word that her business is up and running is spreading quickly in her neighborhood. "I receive regular orders for graduation ceremonies, birthdays and other special occasions. I now earn around IQD 300,000 (approximately US$200) every month, which adds a substantial contribution to running the household."
Cash-for-work opportunities help boost the local economy, create local jobs and support the rebuilding of community infrastructure. Through this project, 300 people were hired to rehabilitate and clean the streets of Diyala. Providing similar opportunities to young people like Sorour can help them save money to invest in their business ideas.
"The past few years have been tough on us [young people] due to terrorism and the effects it had on the country's development. I hope we have more such opportunities targeted towards young people in the future," says Sorour with hope.
About the programme:
This project was implemented by UNDP Iraq's Building Resilience through Employment Promotion (BREP) project with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provided through KFW Development Bank.