Startups in Iraq are focusing on a variety of sectors including education, transportation, and even fashion, but some sectors are yet to be fully explored.
Women’s health in Iraq is a sector that is often overlooked. More than half of Iraq’s population are women, so it is important to discuss the issues that affect them and find solutions. In 2019, the government allocated only 2.5% of Iraq’s $106.5 billion budget to its health ministry. This is despite the fact that Iraq’s health care system has been hit by a series of crises over the past two decades, including a severe shortage of doctors and nurses, a lack of medical equipment and supplies, and poor sanitation conditions in hospitals.
Access to Women’s Health
As the role of women is forever changing and more women are beginning to work outside of the home and gain financial independence, there is an increased need for women’s health services. Unfortunately, many Iraqi women do not have access to these services because it is difficult for them to travel outside their homes due to security or cultural concerns. For Iraqi women to receive the health care they need, there must be a way for them to receive proper care without having to leave their homes or neighbourhoods.
In addition to the lack of access to healthcare, there are other issues affecting Iraqi women’s health. For example, many Iraqi women don’t have access to contraceptives, family planning or abortion services due to cultural restrictions and laws against them.
However, women’s health is not only about fertility and birth control. It is also about mental health, and many women in Iraq struggle with depression and anxiety due to the poor quality of life they experience. The majority of job seeking women are unemployed, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness. In addition to feeling like their lives have no purpose, many Iraqi women suffer from emotional trauma caused by war or violence (if they’ve been victimised or know someone who has been victimised).
Marwa Al-Mashally, 35, found that there is almost no awareness of the importance of mental health among Iraqi women, and this lack of awareness prevented women from being able to seek help for their anxiety. That’s when she came up with Nosoh, a startup that aims to provide mental health services and raise awareness of the importance of mental health.
Al-Mashally believes that many women are not getting the help they need because they don’t know how to get it or where to find it.
I was surprised with the huge amount of clients when I started Nosoh, mainly because people weren’t aware of psychological therapy; the role of psychologist was narrowed down to very limited cases.Marwa Al-Mashally, Founder of Nosoh
Nosoh offers psychological therapy to help clients, mostly women, deal with their anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other mental health issues. Their services include counselling and therapy programs, in addition to online remote sessions for women who may not be able to attend in person.
Nosoh has been in operation for over a year now and has seen an increase in demand for its services. “When I started Nosoh, I thought that the number of clients would be limited to our family and friends but it turned out that there are many people who need psychological help, not only women but also men. Right now, we have around 100 cases committed to our programs” said Al-Mashally.
Skincare is another important aspect of women’s health. Revenue is expected to reach $660 million by the end of 2022 in Iraq, which means the market potential is huge.
Vaya is a startup that makes 100% natural skincare products for women in Mosul. The startup was founded by Roua Raad, who want to help her fellow residents feel beautiful and confident again. Vaya’s products are made with natural ingredients like honey, chamomile, coffee, and aloe vera which are readily available in Iraq.
“There’s nothing like a little pampering. Especially when you’re in the middle of a stressful day, or you’ve had a tough week, or you’re feeling low about your skin” said Raad. “I was one of those women. I love cosmetics, but sometimes they can be too expensive or not as effective as they claim to be. Also, many of them contain chemicals that are bad for your skin and health. This is why we started Vaya, to create a line of products that are 100% natural, affordable and effective—so everyone can feel beautiful again.”
Vaya currently offers 5 different products with plans to create new ones in the future. However, the startup faces some obstacles. “The biggest challenge for us has been getting our products into stores” said Raad. “We want to sell them in pharmacies and retail outlets, but so far no one has been willing to take us on.”
The company is still in its early stages and has not yet had the chance to market itself properly. Raad said that they are currently working on getting some press coverage, but it has been difficult because they are “a small brand with a small budget and no celebrity endorsements”.
“We have a lot of competition, but we’re confident in our product and the quality of ingredients. We’ve been working with natural cosmetics for years now and know what people want from their skincare products.”Roua Raad, Founder of Vaya
“Not only are we offering something new, but also something that works—and that’s why we believe people, over time, will choose Vaya over other brands.”