Kinda was just 15 years old when she arrived in the Kawergosk Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan with her family. With very little money and no work available they were struggling financially, and Kinda was forced to marry a man she barely knew who eventually became violent and abusive.
“My shop is small now, but I hope one day I can make it bigger and bring first hand clothes for the displaced children. I can use this store as my main shop and open branches in other areas in the camp. I am no longer the poor girl I used to be.”
After suffering from years of abuse, Kinda eventually sought a divorce through a religious Imam and enrolled on the Women for Women International business training and counselling project. She was given legal counselling and helped to formalise her divorce legally through the courts.
Once Kinda had been freed from the marriage, she started a business selling second-hand clothes, buying items from a nearby city and selling them in the refugee camp. She is now in control of her life, with an income that she uses to support both herself and her family.
When Francoise first met Jane Abatoni, a representative from Women for Women International, she remembers how she “didn’t want to meet people and used to hide from her neighbours and didn’t want to talk to anybody.” As a 39-year-old widow, struggling with the loss of her husband several years before and the stress of providing for her three children on her own, Francoise had serious doubts about her ability to care for her family.
In Jane, Francoise found the support and encouragement she needed to heal. Being in a place where she felt she belonged and learning how to manage the daily stress she faced, Francoise’s health began to improve, and she no longer needed the medication she had been taking for trauma and stress.
“Today, I am strong and capable of supporting other women and feel like there is no woman who can be in need in my presence. I can help them overcome their loneliness and help them improve their lives as I did… My wish is for every woman’s life to be transformed as mine has been.”
After graduating from Jane’s classes in Women for Women International’s programme in October 2014, Francoise still can’t believe how much her life has changed. She learned how to save and invest money in a business, she discovered new ways to earn income and she developed a new found confidence and belief in herself.
Francoise has saved enough money to build six houses that she now rents to tenants, and she provides for her entire family, with enough money to pay her children’s school fees and continue to invest in her business.
In 1998 a war broke out in Kosovo, and Makfire and her family were just one of the families effected, fleeing to Germany. They returned home three years later to find that their village had been burned to the ground, with everything they once had now gone. Makfire, along with others who had recently returned, began to rebuild their home. After struggling to find the resources they needed, and on hearing about Women for Women International’s programme, Makfire began working with the charity.
“Before we had no idea what a group of women can achieve together and change in their community. The women of Begracë village are stronger than ever, and I hope this is just the beginning.”
Makfire took lessons in horticulture and was trained to cultivate seedlings, improving her production and selling produce to shops and residents. With these newly learnt skills she was able to form a cooperative with 16 other women in her village and, with assistance from Women for Women International, the group were able to grow their business to such an extent that they began selling to markets further afield.
The cooperative is already starting to reap the rewards of their hard work, and the benefits are being felt throughout the community.