A Small Support Changed Arkan‘s Life

Arkan, a 40 year old displaced Iraqi woman, came to Tikrit from Alkut city in September 2008 with her two daughters in search of a better life. Supporting her family in Alkut was not an easy task because of rising unemployment and poor security. Being illiterate did not make fulfilling her responsibilities any easier. But then, shortly after moving to Tikrit, she found Sahara Economic Development Organization (SEDO), a Small Business Development Center (SBDC), supported by the USAID-Tijara Provincial Economic Growth Program.

It had designed a program specifically for illiterate women, many of them widows, who needed to acquire business skills. Arkan joined a training program on "How to Start a Business" in July 2008 along with 15 other hard working but illiterate women. After completing the course she applied for a grant from another USAID funded project and received a sewing machine, as in kind grant, to help her start a micro business. SEDO also helped Arkan to create a business plan which was a prerequisite to receive the grant. At that point, there was no looking back for this ambitious mother of two.

Arkan took a loan from her friend to buy fabric and other raw materials and then started making curtains and clothes for her neighbors. After two months, her business was so successful that she managed to pay back the loan. After three months she bought an additional sewing machine for her 15-year old daughter, Reham, who had been working with her mother from the start to help fill orders as they poured in. Soon Arkan's family income rose to $300 a month. Arkan's relationship with SEDO had been so beneficial that her older daughter Aseel also registered with the SBDC for a similar business development course for literate women. Aseel so impressed her teachers that SEDO immediately hired her in an administrative position. Now, thanks to the two incomes and Arkan's fame for using different sewing styles to create traditional embroidered designs, family's monthly income is up to $500, more than enough to pay for rent and other necessities. "My life changed forever and I no longer worry about my daughters' future," she smiles. "Being a refugee is no fun, but in my case it brought me into contact with the Sahara SBDC where I found a happy ending."