SHAQLAWA, Kurdistan Region - More than 80 women including locals and refugees finished a training course that qualifies them to compete in the local food market within the Kurdish city of Shaqlawa, northeast of Erbil.
The diverse city in recent years has become known for hosting many Iraqis who sought shelter since the rise of ISIS in 2014, many from the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
The program targeted both locals and displaced persons, as well as Syrian refugees, held by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Eighty-two women received their certificates in the agri-business sector, including food processing for micro industries.
The program, funded by the Austrian and Japanese governments, emphasized hygienic food processing at home to serve demands for Shaqlawa's popular local products of bazook, fruit leather, lokum, pomegranate concentrate, and other confectionery products.
The training, which covered food hygiene, production skills and entrepreneurship began in October and ended the first week of December.
The women also received products to help them in starting their own home-businesses which included food preparation trays, weatherproof coolers, pomegranate de-seeders, blenders, scales, and cookware as well as hygienic waste disposal tools.
Training covered a range of lectures, written, practical and theoretical topics related to production, handling, and hygiene.
Local women from Shaqlawa participated in the program along with Iraqi IDPs and Syrian refugees.
“The training was really a chance to get to know each other,” said trainee Nadia Khawla Rasul.
Upon completing the training, the participants received certificates to help them promote the quality of their products in the marketplace along with equipment kits to increase their production.
Shaqlawa Mayor Jwan Fathullah attended the ceremony. “When I became mayor, there were several of us women and we were the first in Iraq to have such a position. To help Shaqlawa, to help women, we will need more projects such as this,” said Fathullah.
“The situation is better now for women, but we need places where we can sell our products directly to customers,” said trainee Eman Hamidamin (right).
Trainees on their way to receive equipment kits after obtaining certificates.
“I love making jams and syrups, so a while ago I went online and taught myself how to make them. The internet is making it easier and easier for women to learn. I even taught myself to embroider this way,” said trainee Gule Mohamed.
Trainee Gule Mohamed shows her embroidery skills. “The training has really brought the women closer together, and made my daughters interested and confident in what they can do,” she said.
Women brought in examples of how they may develop their packaging and labeling. The project will give additional support to bring more marketable designs into fruition.
Equipment kits being brought to the women by UNIDO staff.
“As a widow, it is my responsibility to provide for my children. I make syrups, I make jams. I also bake bread for the Peshmerga troops. But I want to expand my business,” said Nadia Khawla.
The Japanese Consul General, Katsumi Moriyasu attended, delivering remarks with fluency in three languages — English, Arabic, and Kurdish — before helping hand out certificates.
“Women know what goes into the products they make, but they rarely get to tell this to the customers. The women who have been doing this for a long time can teach me and other young women a lot, and we can teach them new ways of marketing and business development,” said traine Aisha Kareem.
Trainees received enough tools to implement what they learned and increase their production without technological or equipment obstacles.
“Aisha and I barely knew each other before, but in the training we have become friends,” said Eman (R) about how she met Aisha (L). Both girls are recent high school graduates and said the training opened their eyes to how they can pursue business now.