Pishdar’s Bakery Story

Pishdar’s Bakery Story

On the outskirts of Erbil lies a town of 25,000 people, Shaqlawa, home to roughly 26,000 internally displaced Iraqis and 3,000 Syrian refugees. Despite the unprecedented influx of IDPs and refugees, which has more than doubled the town’s population, they all get along well.

In August 2016, IOM supported a group of six women from the local and displaced population, to open a (Tirê/Saj bread) bakery. “I had no job but I had always wanted to work,” said Gula Hamad, a mother of seven and the bakery’s manager. Gula led a group of women who received a Business Support Package in baking: “I formed a group of six women from my neighborhood.

All of them were jobless like me, including Shaima, my neighbor who is from Fallujah,” said Gula. “Thank God, the business is doing very well and we have been successful,” said the women in unison. Today the business generates USD 200 a month for each woman. Shaima, a mother of two and one of the bakers, is from Fallujah, Anbar Governorate. She had to displace from her hometown in 2014 when ISIL entered the city.

Shaima is now the breadwinner of her family. “I lost everything when we displaced, but I chose to work and start a new life. Crying would not get me anywhere,” she said.

“When we started this bakery, it was like becoming alive again; I am so happy I can rely on a full-time job to support my family, including my father and mother who are old and cannot work,” said Shaima. “Every time I receive my salary I ask my mother about what we need; I get our daily needs and I am even able to buy my children clothes and make them smile.

I have suffered a lot in my life and don’t want my children to see what I have seen. I also pay for my father’s medications,” added Shaima, who urges women in her situation not to give up: “I would like to call on all the women who were forcibly displaced not to lose hope and to keep searching for opportunities, because there is always a way out.”

When asked about the secret behind their success in a competitive and male-dominated business, Gula said: “It has to do with our product; although there are many bakeries in Shaqlawa, none prepares this type of bread. We knew there was a demand for it and were able to enter the business
easily.”

This is the first female-headed project in Shaqlawa; “At the beginning it was challenging, as it is often difficult for women to start a business in our societies, but I think if there is a strong will and determination, women can lead and succeed. There should be no difference between men and women, they should support each other,” Gula says.