Helping Shorish women support themselves
Iraq has a long and tragic history of war and oppression. The regime of Saddam Hussein was particularly brutal and the Kurdish minority was to suffer tremendously for rebelling against his cruel authority. He ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the majority killed in the notorious genocidal Anfal campaign of 1988. As many as 180,000 people were disappeared and murdered, most of them men of an age to bear arms, accused of being Kurdish insurgents fighting the regime. The mass disappearances left behind thousands of widows and their children without home or livelihood. They lived in poverty and hardship for years.
In 2005, ARI implemented a micro-finance project in Shorish Collective Town, 40 km north of the city of Kirkuk, where a high percentage of ‘Anfal’ widows live. A simple savings and loans project was established to meet the women’s felt need to have lump sums of money for large household purchases. The revolving savings and loan funds enable poor women to save towards expensive items not easily afforded. The discipline of saving, however, elevates the project from simply being a handout. The ladies must be dutiful and conscientious in their commitment to the group and loan repayments. When the loan is repaid it is distributed again within the group. Thus the funds are able to revolve indefinitely or as long as the group remains together.
Ladies have used their loans to purchase sewing machines and farm animals and so increase their household income. Others have purchased essential household items, such as fridges, that were previously too expensive to buy. Some ladies chose to invest in their children’s education and bought computers for children studying at secondary and tertiary level. Loans have also been used to pay for much needed medical operations and house repairs that could not normally be afforded.
There are five rotating savings and loans groups operating and as many as sixty ladies have benefited from the project. There has been a one hundred percent repayment rate and more than $40,000 has been donated to the project and given directly to poor widows for the benefit of their families.