Virtual Business Training: Iraq’s Road to RecoveryPublished: Oct 29, 2020 Reading time: 4 minutes
This year, has been turbulent for the world, but in a place with pre-existing hardships like Iraq, the difficulties just keep adding up. After decades of conflict, Iraq’s reconstruction efforts continue to hit roads blocks with political instability, public unrest, and ceaseless spouts of violent attacks. The economy was already in a fragile state before the pandemic hit, which solicited People in Need’s (PIN) Livelihoods and Early Recovery Programme to support budding businesses and help people earn a dignified living. Today, businesses struggle once again as the effects of COVID-19 related restrictions deal another blow.
According to a PIN-conducted market assessment survey, 80 percent of businesses in Mosul closed during the months of strict curfew and stay-at-home orders. Though businesses have resumed functioning for the most part, the economic consequences of the global pandemic are heavy.
As a response to the situation created by the pandemic, 43 percent of businesses in Mosul are still temporarily or even permanently closed (as of July). Thirty-three percent of business owners had to reduce the prices of their products or services, and nearly half had to reduce staff working hours.
To accommodate for the safety protocol of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, PIN adapted its business training model to fit the mobile screen at home.
Kawla, 27, heard about PIN’s business training opportunity through some girlfriends in Mosul city. Never having been able to work previously, she saw this as the perfect opportunity to learn how to create something new for herself. She decided to apply and became over-joyed once she was chosen after a rigorous selection process.
“My financial condition is weak,” she says, explaining the difficulty of caring for her four children with the single income of her husband. “I participated in this training to take advantage of it to open a home appliances store.”
Kawla and her family suffered a lot living in Mosul during the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s (ISIL) brutal rule. Starting her own business was not simply difficult, but out of the question during this time. Survival is all that has been on her and her family’s mind.
With the new threat of the Coronavirus looming, a new stress was added to daily life. “It was a very difficult period,” Kawla explains to us the difficulty of living through months of curfew earlier in the year and the amount of fear, boredom, and anxiety she felt. “I was afraid for my children from COVID-19, as well as the difficult economic situation.”
Upon completing the 10-day online training safely from her home, Kawla was awarded a start-up grant of over 3,000 Euro to begin planting the seeds of her new business. “I cannot describe how I felt upon signing the contract, as my dream of opening my own project came true,” she tells us gratefully.
Muhammad, 28, has been dealt many blows in his life. “During the period of ISIL, my mother and sister died during the bombing and our house was destroyed,” he tells us solemnly, who is also divorced with two children.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and stay-at-home measures were in place, he lost his job and only source of livelihood. And yet, “I did not feel fear or bored because I was doing household things,” he explains, taking up the opportunity to build himself in ways he wasn’t able to before.
So, when he heard about the online business training from a PIN field worker in Mosul, it was a no brainer. Muhammad already had the ambition to start his own business in dealing spare auto parts, and now, after the training and receiving a start-up grant, he is on track again to supporting himself.
Since 2018, PIN and Alliance2015 partners have used European Union (EU) funds, through the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis, the EU Madad Fund and Czech Republic Development Cooperation funds to help strength the resilience of internally displaced persons and the recovery of host communities in northern Iraq.
Work placement activities and vocational trainings aim to rehabilitate critical services and give people opportunities for alternative sources of income. Business trainings offer aspiring entrepreneurs the skills they need to start or expand their professional dreams, while grant awards give them the practical tools they need to do so.
PIN’s virtual business training saw 120 participants in Mosul, with 69 of them rewarded with seed money to make their business proposals a reality. Additionally, 94 already existing businesses were awarded grants of up to 5,000 Euro each to help them grow and expand.
This project is implemented by ACTED, PIN, Welthungerhilfe (WHH), and Polish Humanitarian Action. PIN, ACTED, and WHH are members of Alliance2015, a strategic partnership of eight leading European humanitarian and development NGOs that has delivered 202 million euros in aid to Iraq.