Hajer Khalil is a 37-year-old woman from Hizawa village, a poor community in Derkar sub-district in Zakho province, Dohuk, Iraq.
Many women in Hajer’s community are socially marginalised. Under-age marriage is a frequent occurrence, for example. Although access to education nationally is now much improved, there is little self-determination amongst women in Hizawa to pursue a career. Most are housewives or provide additional modest support to their families through poultry raising, selling eggs, raising livestock, or through producing and selling milk.
After Hajer’s husband became ill, the only income coming into her family of seven was from her husband’s bi-monthly retirement salary of 220,000 IQD, which equates roughly to US$275. This was already a very low income considering the cost of living in the area and particularly because three of Hajer’s five children are already attending school.
To supplement the family income, Hajer tried to look for work, but she was not successful. Employment was already scarce, and the region’s 2014 economic crisis had further reduced the number of available opportunities.
“I come from a family of small poultry breeders,” said Hajer. “My dream was always to establish a small poultry farm of my own and bring in a modest income to my family. This was postponed due to my marriage and while I had a family. My husband used to work for the government as a policeman, and his income had been enough to support the family until he had to retire due to poor health.”
Thankfully, Hajer was eligible to participate in GOAL’s cash grant distribution initiative, and through this, she could pursue her dream. She established a small poultry-raising project and she now supplies local eggs and fresh chicken to markets in Zakho.
With income from her new project, she can support her family and pay back part of the family’s accumulated debts.
“I always wanted to start a small poultry breeding project because I had some experience in raising poultry,” Hajer added. “For example, I know how to deal with or prevent poultry diseases; I know how to protect animals during the region’s very hot summers and the very cold winters. Also, I could see there were no similar projects in the region. Therefore, the competition was low.
“The local Women’s Union advised me to apply for GOAL’s agricultural grant. They also helped me fill in the application since I am not educated. The application was successful.
“This grant was the best thing to happen to my family for years. I can now contribute towards my children's living expenses, their education, and I can provide treatment for my husband.
“I feel happy and more content about the positive change I can now make to my family’s life.”