In a part of the country often forgotten by the central government, southern Iraq has had its share of challenges following years of conflict that began with the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Communities need government support for projects that they identify as high priority, such as rehabilitation of hospitals, health centers and schools, construction of bridges, and battling high rates of unemployment.
A lack of opportunities is one major factor for unemployment. But an entrepreneurial spirit still exists.
Khamaeal Hussein lives in a small neighborhood in Shatt Al Arab district, in Basra governorate. She is 29 years old and participated in a Mercy Corps-funded project last year: a hairdressing and makeup training for 20 women in her district. It was a small project, lasting a month, with professional lectures and supplies provided for the participants.
Like many women her age who leave school early to help their families, Khamaeal had not been able to complete her studies. A Catch-22, this meant she had not been able to find a good job to continue supporting her family.
She read an announcement about the Mercy Corps training, and joined to learn new techniques and develop her skills. With the supplies she received as part of the training, Khamaeal was able to open a shop in her home, using one room as a beauty salon. She started with her close friends and neighbors as clients, and gradually became well-known in her neighborhood. Mercy Corps staff recently met with Khamaeal, about 10 months after she completed her training, and saw the success she’s had with her beauty salon.
This seemingly small project — and a very inexpensive one at that — will have a lasting impact on Khamaeal, her family, their livelihood and her community's small business development. Perhaps one day she will take the skills she's learned and put into practice and pass them along to other young women like herself.