Empowering Youth for Economic Development in Iraq

Published: May 6, 2024 Reading time: 2 minutes
Iraqi women attending training at our office in Baiji
© Foto: People in Need

Iraq is steadily progressing toward recovery from decades of conflict and war. Yet, formidable barriers such as low employment rates and economic challenges continue to impede its completion.

A significant impediment is the limited participation of women and youth in the economy at both the general and community levels, despite a considerable percentage being educated. Ryam, a 24-year-old widow from Baiji, highlights the difficulties she faced in securing employment due to societal norms and the scarcity of suitable opportunities. "The working environment isn't conducive for women, especially in remote areas in Iraq," she says.

Iraq ranks among the top countries globally regarding public sector dominance in the job market. Yet, it exhibits one of the lowest Female Labor Force Participation (FLFP) rates worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). As of 2021, despite a population of 43 million, with females constituting 49.7% and 6.63% being of working age, female unemployment stood at 28.19%, with women significantly underrepresented in leadership roles, with females lagging far behind the 30% target in leadership positions. 

Furthermore, a gap exists between recent graduates and the job market, with employers typically seeking experienced candidates. "After graduation, I was unable to find a job because there aren't many opportunities for women," said Ryam.

Comprehensive training for youth in Baiji

The Building Resilience through Employment Promotion project was launched to address female underemployment in Iraq. Launched in Baiji, is implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in partnership with People in Need (PIN) and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through KFW Development Bank.

This project offers comprehensive training for youth, covering business management fundamentals and providing small business grants and coaching for aspiring entrepreneurs. A bridge was established between youth and business owners in a subsequent phase, facilitating internships and job training to bolster participants' experience and employability prospects.

Ryam, who acquired valuable skills and knowledge at a sewing workshop, subsequently launched her own business. "I learned design, sewing, and business management, which enabled me to establish my workshop and contribute to the local economy," she says. Her success underscores the transformative potential of empowering youth.

While the project represents a modest stride towards Iraq's economic recovery, it is a beacon of hope for the nation's youth, who embody the country's future. By nurturing entrepreneurial talent and economic inclusivity, initiatives like these pave the way for sustainable development and prosperity in Iraq. 

Autor: Majd Zaghir, PIN Middle East Communication Officer

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