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We Are "Hanya"

Women Entrepreneurs Are Preventing the Spread of COVID-19

Hanya founders: Top left - Rajaa; top right - Najma; Bottom - Amal; bottom right - Shakiba
Four of Hanya's founders: Hanya founders: Clockwise from the top-left: Rajaa, Najma, Amal, & Shakiba; Credit: Alison Baskerville

In 2017, Hasiba, Rajaa, Najma, Amal, and Shakiba were five of the 300 women enrolled in Women for Women International’s program in Daratu in Iraq. Today, they are agents for change who protect their communities from coronavirus. 

All five women attended trainings where they learned to care for their family members’ health, financial skills, and how to start their own business, along with other valuable lessons about their rights. Through the program, they had the opportunity to take sewing classes, and learned to sew dresses, pants, shirts, and traditional Kurdish and Arabic outfits as their trainer impressed upon them the value of their work through her own personal experiences.

Together, Hasiba, Rajaa, Najma, Amal, Hasiba, and Shakiba combined what they had learned from Women for Women International and began to form a dream which then became a plan: Start a tailoring business. 

They presented their plan to Women for Women International and after graduating, secured a business start-up grant from the organization to make their dream a reality. They called their group “Hanya,” named after Hasiba’s daughter. 

In a small shop above one of their homes, the women of Hanya use what they learned from the program to earn an income. They have expanded their business by printing business cards that they’ve distributed to neighbors to attract more customers. 

Amidst a strict lockdown in northern Iraq and the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, Hanya realized they could do more. Hasiba said, “I was sewing traditional Kurdish clothes for my children when they wanted to go and play in a garden near my house. So, I decided to sew them masks.” 

Hasiba of Hanya sewing masks
Hasiba of Hanya sewing masks

Each of the five entrepreneurs knew about health and disease from their lessons at Women for Women International. 

The group got together and brought the fabric they had left to start sewing more masks. They made many and shared them with their immediate family members, relatives, and neighbors in their community. 

Once, Hasiba, Rajaa, Najma, Amal, and Shakiba were counted as vulnerable. Now, they are sharing the strength, skills, and knowledge they have gained to protect fellow community members who need support.