She had a dream of becoming a doctor. It was taken away from her when she was forced to drop out of school and marry young. But years later, she dreams bigger.
She had a dream…She didn’t give up
August 23, 2022
Meet Kawther*, now 28, from Tel Kaif, an Assyrian town in northern Iraq. Five minutes into a conversation with her, she unhappily recounts how she was forced to quit school and her dreams with them. After her father kept her home and out of school, she joined the rest of her family of eleven members to help farm and raise cattle.
Even after she dropped out of school, Kawther still hoped for an education. However, when she turned seventeen, her father married her off to a member of the same community. She bitterly recounts, “I felt terrible. I was devastated. I was still young and yet got married off. My friends told me to not get married, but I told them that my father gave his word and cannot undo it.”
Marrying so young exposes women and girls to risks of domestic violence, financial dependency and a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
This was no exception for Kawther. It forced her into adulthood before she was even physically or mentally ready. It had devastating consequences for her health. She delivered her first child after a year of marriage and her second child at the end of that year. She recounts her complicated pregnancies. “All the responsibilities were all left to me. It was too much to handle. I was too young for all that. I wasn’t up to the responsibility. So, my mother-in-law and husband had to help me with my first child.”
Luckily, Kawther’s husband was older than her by a year and open to bearing some of the responsibility. He worked at the local flour factory, provided for the family, and supported her at home.
However, life got more complicated for Kawther during the liberation from ISIL. In 2014, she lost her husband to an air strike. Now a mother of five, she was left to raise her children on her own with no financial independence or literacy. On returning home after liberation, a local mosque gave her IQD 50,000 (around US$ 34) every month. This small amount was not enough to make ends meet.
This was when Kawther came across business development and small grant opportunity organized by UNDP and World Vision in Iraq. She received a five-day long business training course, followed by a grant of US$ 1,000. She used the grant to purchase cows and sheep.
Today, Kawther runs a small dairy farm. Having identified a gap in the local market, she produces natural yoghurt and sells it in her neighborhood. Now, she has a sustainable source of income.
As a single mother running her own business, Kawther believes in being self-reliant and strong. “Women must stand up for themselves. Women must work and rely on themselves.”
Despite all the difficulties, Kawther is determined to break the cycle for her children. She plans to focus on ensuring they receive a good education. She now dreams bigger. “My dream is to educate my children and ensure they build their own homes. For me, my life and future are over. But I can hope and dream for my children.”
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 by World Vision here.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.