Empowering Iraqi Women via Enterprise

The first component of this program focused on strengthening local assistance initiatives for widows in Iraq. Relief International partnered with three social enterprise organizations — Synergos, Echoing Green, and Beyond Reform and Development — to help develop innovative programming and train other local organizations. The program sought to use social enterprise and entrepreneurship to build sustainable livelihoods for war widows, including victims of gender-based violence. 

The second component of the program leveraged the Internet to transform women’s finances. Fifty Iraqi women who are small business owners were provided with loans, mentorship and training. Loan capital was crowd-sourced on Kiva, an online micro-lending platform, and offered through RI’s microfinance initiative based in Sulimaniyah. Mentors were successful executives from around the world, selected and trained by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Training included courses in strategic planning, marketing, finance, human resources and legal issues. 

Overall, this program gave Iraqi women access to the networks and knowledge needed to increase their confidence as female business owners. It also increased the visibility of successful women in Iraqi society.