Iraqi women continue to break barriers as we see more women working in male-dominated professions and becoming experts in their fields. We could name them all here, but we’ll leave that for another article. In the past year, we’ve observed an increase in the number of women-led and owned startups in Iraq who are trailblazing in their respective sectors. Take KESK as an example, founded by Basima Abdulrahman, a leading company in the solar energy space in Iraq. Oh, and not to forget Ya Khadijah founder, Khadijah Abdul-nabi, who runs a female-led design studio in Erbil.
Despite these achievements, there is still a long way to go. The option of remote freelancing and/or running a business offers huge flexibility for women with multiple responsibilities, and we’ll delve deeper into why running a business should be seen as an option for Iraqi women who choose to work.
1. Iraqi Women Have the Skills
Iraqi women are often seen as leaders within their families and communities, so it’s no surprise that they can leverage these leadership skills in starting their own businesses. They display strong problem-solving skills along with an innate ability to multitask – both of which are essential for any successful entrepreneur.
2. Iraqi Women Know the Market
Iraqi women understand what it takes to succeed commercially due to their intimate knowledge of local markets and consumer trends. This puts them at an advantage over foreign competitors who may be less aware of cultural nuances and buying behaviours specific to Iraq.
3. Iraqi Women are Motivated by Necessity
Given that opportunities for professional advancement remain limited for many Iraqi women, starting your own business can be a highly empowering act. Many female entrepreneurs we’ve spoken to have said they are driven by a desire to provide for themselves and/or generate income streams outside of traditional employment options available to them.
4. Iraqi Women Have More Support Now Than Before
The Iraqi entrepreneurship ecosystem is maturing, with more support and opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs are a vital part of the economy, and they are playing an increasingly important role in Iraq’s future prosperity.
5. Iraq is Ripe with Opportunity
There has never been a better time than now for Iraqi women to start their own business. Recently, the Kurdish Regional Government has made it easier and cheaper to register a company in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. It now only takes 24 hours to register a business name and the cost of registering a trademark is 50,000 IQD (previously 600,000 IQD for Arabic and Kurdish and 1.2 million IQD for English names). Business registration fees have also reduced by more than half to 62,000 IQD (previously 153,000 IQD).
Aside from this, there are still many gaps in the local market that are waiting to be filled. Iraqi women can fill these gaps with their knowledge, skills, and expertise, whilst paving the way for future women entrepreneurs.
No doubt there are several challenges that Iraqi women face which need to be addressed if they are going to fully participate in the Iraqi economy. These include access to finance, lack of specialised skills and training, cultural barriers, and insecurity. Addressing these issues will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders including government institutions, private sector companies, civil society organizations (CSOs), development partners, etc, working together toward creating an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs.