Jiyan’s Dream

Coloured fabrics and threads are scattered throughout a small, cosy room. The sounds of a sewing machine and children’s giggles can be heard in the background. This is the place where Jiyan, a 28-year-old from Qamishli in Syria, is making her dream come true in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).

Fleeing Syria

Jiyan was forced to flee her home in Qamishli in 2013 due to the violence in Syria.

“It was only my sister and me when we fled Syria. We were both engaged at that time and my now-husband was already in KRI waiting for us to arrive. I still remember being scared because I’d never left my hometown before, especially not alone without my parents,” says Jiyan.

Jiyan’s elderly parents were not able to leave Qamishli at that time as they could not cope with travelling for long hours.

“I will never forget that time. It was during August, the hottest month of the summer season and we walked for so many hours to reach the border. We slept in an abandoned school and the next day we were able to cross into KRI,” she recalls.

When they first arrived, Jiyan and her sister were sent to Kawergosk refugee camp, and later moved to Domiz camp to be with Jiyan’s husband. Jiyan currently lives with her husband and three children, Kajin, Yousif and Mahmood in Duhok.

Jiyan working on her sewing machine at her house in Domiz camp. Photo: Fareed Baram/NRC

The dream of becoming a tailor

“I grew up in a family of tailors. My mother was a tailor who worked from home, and so were my aunts and uncles from both sides of my family. When I was younger, I loved watching them work with fabrics and I was always fascinated by how they used the sewing machine,” says Jiyan. “Tailoring requires concentration and creativity, it’s not something that you can do repeatedly every day and expect to have the same result. There’s different garments for a different individuals with different sizes, shapes and styles. That’s what I like about it, that I can be creative.”

I loved watching them work with fabrics and I was always fascinated by how they used the sewing machine

The day that changed Jiyan’s life

“I was scrolling through Facebook one day and saw a link to NRC’s project for supporting small businesses and providing soft skills and vocational training,” Jiyan says. “I decided to apply to open a small business and thankfully I was accepted! I was lucky to participate in the business skills training. Later, I got a grant to open my small business. My husband was and still is very supportive of the work that I do. He always encourages me and supports me by taking care of the children at home. I am very grateful that I can support my husband through my work and also provide for my children.”

Jiyan participated in the business skills training that lasted for four days where she learned trading, service provision, preparing a business plan, marketing and bookkeeping. After that, she received two installments through NRC’s cash and livelihood programme so that she could open her tailoring shop.

“With the first installment of the small business grant, I bought a sewing machine and fabrics,” she says. “With the second installment, I bought another sewing machine, a shop sign, and shelves.”

The grant made it possible for Jiyan to open her small business and buy all the required equipment. Photo: Fareed Baram/NRC

Hopes and dreams for the future

Jiyan started her tailoring business in a small room in her home at the camp. The room may be small, but it is filled with many hopes and dreams for the future.

“I wish that in the future I can develop my work and have a bigger shop, not necessarily in my house, but maybe when I have more customers, I can have a bigger shop at the market and hire assistants to help me. I can also give back something to my community through teaching and helping other women like me. I can’t imagine my life without this project, this has changed my life for the better. I can support my husband financially and also provide for my children.

“I can build a better future for them.”

This activity is part of NRC’s project “Access to safe and sustainable livelihood opportunities for displacement-affected populations, in support of durable solutions in Dohuk governorate of Kurdistan Region of Iraq”. The project is funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP II) for Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, which is supported by the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland and Switzerland.