Once in need, Sajida is now helping others

Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Sajida sewing at the Women Leadership Institute. Photo: Nagham Faaq/Women Leadership Institute

Sajida Khalaf is a 52-year-old Iraqi woman from Fallujah, a town in Anbar Province, west of Baghdad. She is married and has six sons and daughters who all live away from her.

Things were going well for Sajida until she was diagnosed with meningitis two years ago. This forced her to stay in bed for several months, and caused many complications including partial memory loss. Following treatment, she began to recover and was able to move again.

Sajida then started to suffer from depression that was aggravated by the fact that she was living alone with her elderly husband away from their children. When she heard about the psychosocial support provided by Women Leadership Institute (WLI) at “the safe space” in Falluja, she visited the centre to seek help.

WLI provides protection as well as psychosocial and legal support to vulnerable women, including survivors of violence at two safe spaces in Anbar and Kirkuk. Supported by UN Women and the European Union (EU) in the framework of their regional programme “Strengthening the Resilience of Syrian Women and Girls and Host Communities in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey,” WLI has provided support to 160 women in Iraq. This project is funded by the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (the EU “Madad” Fund).

At the safe space, Sajida benefited from services designed to help vulnerable women, including psychosocial support and economic empowerment activities. After some psychosocial sessions where she was able to speak freely about her suffering and think of possible ways to turn her life around, Sajida said she started to feel better. 

During the sessions, she also expressed a desire to help other women make good use of the services offered by the safe space. Already possessing good sewing skills, she began to assist women who received small grants from WLI to start their own tailoring businesses and generate income to support themselves and their families.

WLI provides these grants to vulnerable women to help them make a living and become self-sufficient. The grants include start-up costs and are accompanied by training and coaching.

Teaching other women her sewing skills turned Sajida from a person in need of help to someone who helps others.

“I feel so good when I am at the safe space,” Sajida said. “It is like my second home. I feel I am helpful to other women and that my time is well-spent doing useful things.”