Shukria's journey to overcoming hardship

How a cash-for-work opportunity helped Shurkia and her family get back on their feet.

October 5, 2022

UNDP In Iraq Shukria at her residence in Tooz, Salah al-Din

Photo: World Vision

Meet 42-year-old Shukria who currently lives with her family in Tooz, Salah al-Din. During the devastating ISIL conflict, she was displaced from her home in Zanana, a village north of Tooz. 

Shukria married her husband 24 years ago and has five children. Before the conflict, she remembers life being stable and peaceful. "I used to bake loaves of bread in the morning and tend to the sheep in the afternoon. I had no major anxieties, and my aspirations were simple," she says.

She suffered a significant health setback after the birth of her twins 11 years ago. She suffered from kidney failure. Despite this, she says, "The birth of my twins was the start of happiness for me. Today, I do not care about living with only one kidney. What concerns me is that I have a sufficient reason to live, which lies in my children."

However, the aftermath of the ISIL conflict turned Shukria's life upside down. She lost her ancestral home, livestock, and bakery, which she spent over 20 years caring for. In addition, her husband suffered from psychological trauma that was further exacerbated by being diagnosed with cancer.

Having lost her primary source of income, Shukria was forced to dip into her savings and borrow money to make ends meet. The last four years of turmoil increased her anxiety as she feared for her children's future. "My living conditions were harsh. There are no words to describe what I went through. There was a point when we did not even have a mattress for my children to sleep on. We slept on the floor."

This was when Shukria decided to take the lead and find ways to provide for her family. She started to look for jobs by registering with organizations and the local Mukhtar. Her primary goal was to provide her children with a stable environment and basic needs to complete their schooling.

UNDP provides cash-for-work opportunities for people like Shukria, who are left highly vulnerable after the conflict. She received a five-day training followed by 40 days of employment. These short-term opportunities offer temporary work to Iraqis, boosting their household income.

"When I was picked, I felt like I was being dragged out of the quicksand I was being sucked into." Shukria refers to the growing debt from her children's schooling and her husband's medical bills. "It was an incredible opportunity to get this experience that could be used to get another job that will sustain my children and me."

"A person must be patient, grateful and satisfied with what they have," says Shukria with relief. She used her earnings to pay off her debts, ensure her husband's medical treatment, and purchase textbooks and clothes for her children.

Shukria also learnt a lot from the cash-for-work opportunity. She saw this as a chance to gain new skills that could come in handy in the future. She learnt to paint walls, repair furniture, and restore electricity.

And this is precisely what Shukria did on returning home. She painted the living room white. A color that resembles her calm and determined nature. A person that does not give up no matter what life throws at her.


The project is implemented by UNDP's Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme, in partnership with World Vision, with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provided through KFW Development Bank.

A version of the story was published on World Vision's website here.