Lt. Col. Robert Jones, deputy team leader for the Wasit provincial reconstruction team, cuts the ribbon at the official opening of the Muafiqiyah women’s sewing center on April 10. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazo)
AL-KUT, Iraq (April 16, 2008) – A women’s sewing center officially opened in Muafiqiyah village on April 10, providing both employment and training for female residents.
The center will serve as a means for local women to earn income to support their families, said Sgt. Amanda E. Timmer, head of the Women’s Initiatives program for the Wasit provincial reconstruction team.
The center employs 11 women from the village, one for each sewing machine. Eventually these women will take apprentices, doubling the workforce, said Timmer.
“The plan is not only to employ women, but to train them, provide them a skill,” Timmer said.
Selection for the initial group was specifically aimed at single mothers whose spouses had died and who had no other means to provide for their families, said Timmer.
This is the first project in Muafiqiyah the PRT has undertaken, said Timmer, and was used to establish a relationship with the village.
The project resulted from collaboration between local leaders in the village, the PRT and the Wasit provincial council.
The initial assessment took place in early March, after Hadi al-Yasiri, a member of the council and a contractor the PRT had worked with before, asked the PRT to visit Muafiqiyah, his hometown.
The sewing center was nothing more than an empty building next to the mayor’s office, said Lt. Col. Robert Jones, PRT deputy team leader. After the assessment, a complete refurbishment of the center was conducted over the course of ten days by al-Yasiri.
Timmer said the sewing center will be overseen and run by Ahmad Nouri Ali al-Yasiri, head of the Muafiqiyah local council. All the materials currently at the center where provided by the council and will be used by the women to create clothing, she said.
The clothing produced by the women will be sold locally and - if there is a demand - at the al-Kut markets, said al-Yasiri. The council will oversee sales, with part of the profits going to maintain the center, fund operations and purchase materials.
The remaining income will be handed over to the women to support their families. In this way, Timmer said, the center not only supports the women, but allows them to contribute to the community.