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Livelihoods: Aaliyah's* Story


In Sinjar and Sinunni district, Aaliyah and her fellow project participants are gaining business skills, equipping them to take advantage of new income opportunities provided through the injection of business grants.


15 August 2022, Gina Meutia and Kener Muftey


*Name has been changed and some details omitted for protection reasons


For Aaliyah, a chance to open a shop is making a massive difference in her life and giving her the means to be financially independent and to support her family whilst connecting with women in her community. After receiving an injection of business capital from her participation in the Support to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) project, Aaliyah has recently opened a shop which offers a range of beauty and women’s products.

“After graduating from high school, I was not able to continue my education due to lack of funds. After waiting for a few years, I was able to take some evening classes to complete a technical course at one of the local health institutions, but in the end, I was not able to get a job.”


Indeed, like Aaliyah, many young people throughout Iraq have not been able to obtain a job and become self-reliant. When ISIS overran many villages including those throughout Sinjar and Sinunni districts in 2014, Aaliyah and her family lost everything. The destruction brought by the war resulted in businesses closing down and has had severe negative consequences to job availability.


More than 60 percent of Iraqis are under 25, and according to some estimates, nearly half are unemployed in a country that is one of the largest producers of oil. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the frustration amongst young people on increased unemployment, which contributed to thousands of young Iraqis to migrate. These frustrations culminated in October 2019, when millions of young and disenfranchised Iraqis took to the streets during protests that lasted for several months, calling for change.

“I used to feel hopeless when I thought about my future. But since joining this project and after obtaining business skills and receiving the business grants provided through this project, I was then able to turn things around and become independent.”

Thanks to the Support to MSMEs project, Aaliyah and over one hundred of her peers received a package of livelihood support interventions geared towards entrepreneurship, aimed to contribute to social cohesion, encourage private sector job creation and economic recovery. The Support to MSMEs project was implemented from December 2021 until August 2022 in Sinjar and Sinunni districts, Ninewa governorate, by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with Human Relief Foundation (HRF) and funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provided through KfW Development Bank. This project was designed in the understanding that starting a business can be daunting for anyone, particularly those in the aftermath of war and conflict who are seeking to rebuild their lives.

With the help provided through the Support to MSMEs project, women in Sinjar and Sinunni districts are finding the courage and determination to rebuild their lives through a number of sessions of intensive business training courses. These sessions cover important skills from accounting and bookkeeping to communication and negotiation, but most importantly, they help women to find a niche for themselves and their businesses in their new communities and areas of origin. After completing the training, participants, including women, can bid for business grants to get their enterprises up and running.

“Through this project, I have been able to develop my business skills and use the business grant as capital to set up my business. I do not really feel deterred by the challenges I faced,” Aaliyah said. She smiled as she expressed her aspiration for the future. “I am confident that I will run my business successfully. This business is a vital source of income to support myself and my family. Perhaps one day, once my business becomes more profitable, I may also have enough funds to finish my formal education”.

For over 30 years, HRF has continued to help deliver assistance to millions of people across Iraq, including returnees/IDPs who are struggling to cope with the aftermath of conflict. HRF has cultivated varied networks with communities across Iraq through its project work. The Support for MSMEs project is one of a few parallel projects being implemented by UNDP in partnership with HRF. 


UNDP is the leading United Nations organisation fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, they help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and the planet. Learn more at or follow at @UNDP.

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