Nothing in
your cart



Livelihoods: Amir's* Story


Young people in Iraq are facing many challenges. A lack of livelihood opportunities and limited possibilities hinder their ability in striving to lead the development process in their country. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with Human Relief Foundation (HRF) have been implementing the Support to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) project to support budding young entrepreneurs in Ninewa governorate


16 August 2022, Gina Meutia and Kener Muftey


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


He may not have attended art school or received any formal training, but Amir has managed to build a reputation as the local sculptor in Sinjar district, Ninewa governorate.


“At first, I started making samples using clay to make stereoscopic sculpture, a technique for creating the vision of depth in an object,” said Amir. “I learned this technique by joining the Iraqi Sculptor Club, particularly from the more experienced sculptors in that club”. Despite his passion and skills, however, Amir has not been able to turn profit in the previous years. “I was not able to open my own business offering my products and service because I lacked sufficient capital to do so. Life was very challenging before I joined this project.”

Ahmed, like many of his peers, left Sinjar district with his parents and siblings at the height of ISIS occupation throughout Iraq. 

“My family and I moved to Baghdad because it was no longer safe to remain in Sinjar. In Baghdad, I started learning about the art of sculpting.”

Sculpting has become a passion for Amir ever since.


Throughout Iraq, if one walks into any traditional old Iraqi houses, it is common to see a number of artworks, including sculptures displayed in the yard and inside the house. Iraqi art is one of the richest art heritages in the world and includes all works of visual art originating from the ancient Mesopotamian periods. 


However, sculpting has not always been free of challenges. Up until the early 2000s, there were many restrictions made against production of sculptures, resulting in many sculptors changing profession or fleeing Iraq altogether. 


“I could choose another business which could be less challenging and require less efforts and may even be more profitable in the long run, but sculpting is my passion and opening this business is a dream come true.” 


The Support to MSMEs project implemented by UNDP in partnership with HRF from December 2021 until August 2022, provided a package of livelihood support interventions geared towards entrepreneurship. The project, which was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provided through KfW Development Bank, aimed to contribute to social cohesion, encourage private sector job creation and economic recovery for young and vulnerable people living in Sinjar and Sinunni districts, Ninewa governorate. 


In particular, the project offered business training which focuses on skills such as marketing, accounting and bookkeeping, communication, negotiation, etc. As many as 107 project participants were also provided with an injection of capital from business grants being disbursed on the basis of sustainable business plans developed by each of these participants. 


“After receiving the second instalment of the business grant, I was able to generate a monthly profit, which also enabled me to support my family,” Ahmed expressed confidently. 


“From the business training, I was able to obtain an important knowledge about proper marketing of my sculptures and sculpting skill. The first people I applied this newly gained marketing skill to were the other project participants I met in the training sessions. From there, I started to gain more business requests.” 


As we ended the interview, Amir thanked HRF staff and said, “Since I started this business, my life has improved. This project, made me believe that with patience, hard work, confidence, and a little bit of help, I can make my dream come true.” 


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 through 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.

Sign Up Today

Become a subscriber to our email newsletters for the latest news and updates.