Thursday, September 28, 2023

Small Businesses, Big Dreams: Iraq's Women Entrepreneurs - Barron's

The sewing machines and fabric that surround Alaa Adel at her "Iraqcouture" studio in Baghdad are testament to her success in deeply patriarchal Iraq.

Adel, 33, counts herself among a limited number of female entrepreneurs in a country where most women don't work outside the home.

"We have a social tradition that prevents many women from working," Adel said at her studio in Baghdad's Karrada commercial district.

Even for those who do, "it is not always that easy," she added.

The International Organization for Migration said in an October report that "prevailing customs and traditions... limit women's activities to their domestic and nurturing role".

Adel said such prejudices, as well as practical difficulties, posed a challenge to fulfilling her dream.

A graduate of the University of Baghdad who specialised in fashion and design, Adel wanted to create her own fashion house.

"I went to see the patrons of organisations that support art and culture. But my idea was systematically rejected because I had no experience in the conception of projects," she said.

Thanks to an Iraqi foundation, The Station, and its "Raidat" (Female Entrepreneurs) programme financed by the French embassy in Baghdad, Adel got training which, she said, gave her the confidence to start her own business.

Iraq's private sector is still embryonic, making more tedious and lengthy the steps to set up a company.

The country, which is trying to move past four decades of war and unrest, is also plagued by...

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