ERBIL, Iraq – Even short-term projects can offer tools that help uprooted families reshape their own futures.
In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, a three-month sewing project supported by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) gave Syrian refugees an intensive introduction to sewing Kurdish styles of traditional clothing, as well as children’s clothes and pajamas.
At the end of the training, which MCC supported through partners Rozhawa Women's Council (RWC) and the Iraqi Kurdistan NGO Network (IKNN), each of the 20 participants received a sewing machine, fabric, needles, scissors and other items they can use to sew for themselves or to make items to sell.
(MCC Photo/Matthew Swatsky)
Iman, who fled from Syria with her husband and six children, ages 5 to 24, was accustomed to sewing for herself and her children in Syria and is looking forward to beginning to sew for neighbors and relatives.
“I can say now that I have good skills,” Iman noted. “Some say we are too old for this training, but no, I am always ready for new skills, new training.” (The last names of Iman and other refugees in this story are not used for security reasons.)
For Hasrat, another participant, sewing provides a welcome way to generate income from her house. “I can do my daily job at home, preparing food, and I can work as well,” the 43-year-old said.
In Syria, she contributed to the household income by sewing items for neighbors and relatives. But like other women in the training, her manual sewing machine was left behind as she fled.
And the opportunity to earn became even more important in Iraq because her husband who had a job in the construction industry in Syria now relies on selling used clothing from a small stand on the street.
It’s a theme echoed by other women in the training. “My main reason was to help my husband,” Wilsha said. “Finding a job was very difficult for us. I hope this will be an extra income, some help to my family.”