On September 7th, MLI recognized seven NEW Iraq (Network for the Economic Empowerment of Women in Iraq) mentors for their extraordinary leadership in the movement for the enfranchisement of women in Iraq. MLI honored the mentors for their dedication and generosity in helping integrate Iraqi female heads of household into Iraq's economic and social fabric, and for serving as outstanding role models.
MLI began the ceremony by welcoming all in attendance and highlighting accomplishments of the honorees. The AMAR Foundation, MLI's partner during the project, then made remarks followed by comments from each NEW Iraq mentor. The event concluded with a delicious lunch, generously donated by Equinox Restaurant in Washington, DC, and a showing of a documentary that was filmed throughout the project.The documentary may be viewed here.
The NEW Iraq project, launched in September 2017, was implemented by MLI and the AMAR Foundation, and was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. AMAR staff in Basra, Iraq identified 80 women who had lost their husbands in violent conflict and had thus come to bear the financial responsibilities of caring for their households. The women were matched with 16 successful Iraqi and U.S.-based Arabic speaking business women who volunteered countless hours over the next 12 months, mentoring and training the ladies in subjects like financial literacy, CV writing, market research, preparation of business plans, and most importantly, helped to build their self-confidence. From 4:30 am Skype sessions to weekly calls and hundreds of What's App messages, the mentors invested their time and knowledge, and committed their hearts and minds, to help these Iraqi women succeed.
During the ceremony, Saja Mohsin delivered a remarkable speech outlining her experiences as a mentor. "I joined the project because I believe that women's support for each other is a given," she commented. "And for us to empower society, we have to invest in women and they will drive the social ripple effect." Ms. Mohsin recalled witnessing incredible transformations among her trainees, who demonstrated growth in self-confidence, discovered hidden talents to help them succeed, and escaped the emotional stigma of being a widow by growing into strong businesswomen.
"Mentorship is about being able to connect, trust, and build lasting human relationships," Ms. Mohsin said. "Economic empowerment is beyond providing knowledge and grants; it's about acknowledging the pain of the women's lives, and valuing their human potential to change their societies."
Trainees developed ideas for small businesses and worked with their mentors to create business plans and proposals. Each trainee received a small grant that helped them launch their businesses. The grants enabled the trainees to build hair styling salons, small grocery stores, photography studios, and even a daycare center. To learn more about the NEW Iraq project, please visit our page on women's empowerment.
All recognized mentors: Saja, Mona, Athira with MLI staff Tycie and Indre
Josephine, Hind, Hanadi, Athira