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Shireen and her family left Syria in 2013 to escape the fighting. They now live in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Unable to find work as a refugee, Shireen desperately wanted to learn a new skill that could help her provide for her family. Shireen learnt how to sew, but she gained more than the ability to make clothes: she learnt about her worth and value as a woman.

Click on the video below to hear her story.

In November 2017, Shireen joined the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations programme and met other women like her. She learnt social, economic, and technical skills including how to sew and how to keep business records.

Shireen_Erbil_Iraq_Photo_Alison Baskerville
Shireen with her daughters in Erbil, Iraq. Shireen is a programme graduate of Women for Women International - Iraq. Photo: Alison Baskerville

The programme helped Shireen to understand her value and has equipped her to pass on that knowledge to her daughters. She shared:

I can defend them and support their rights…they have rights in this life.

Shireen and her family. Photo: Aidan O'Neill

Passionate about women’s rights and issues such as child marriage, Shireen learnt that women and men should be equal:

"[A man] should not control her [his wife] by force, like 'you should do this or that,' and she would so it. No, she is also like you [man]. She should do whatever she likes and wants to do."

A man should not impose on her because he is a man and she is a woman. This is not right.

Shireen was overjoyed when she graduated from the programme in 2018. “I loved it when I walked across the stage and received my certificate. When they read my name and I stepped up to the stage, I was thinking ‘I will open a shop’ and this certificate will be framed on the wall of my shop.…And, if a customer tries to tell me that my sewing is not professional, I would respond ‘what do you mean?

I have a certificate now. So, how is it not good?

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