News: Iraqi women take advantage of beekeeping business opportunities
Story by Spc. Richard Colletta
BAYJI, Iraq – Several women in the Salah ad-Din province are learning how to maintain honey bee colonies through a class taught by the Salah ad-Din Economic Development Organization, which began, April 28.
The beekeeping initiative, implemented by the SEDO and the Salah ad-Din Provincial Reconstruction Team is aimed at helping Iraqi women, many of whom have been widowed by the war, start their own small businesses.
According to Saleh Matar Hamd, a SEDO instructor, beekeeping classes teach women how to keep and handle bees in order to cultivate honey.
"I love teaching others. It's a true passion of mine and we want to give these women better opportunities than they would have otherwise," he said.
During the class, the women sat quietly, listening and taking notes as Hamd demonstrated how to use beekeeping equipment.
"We don't just lecture them," said Hamd. "We show them and when the class is over we give them the materials and hand over the bees to the trainees to take care of." At the end of the training, each woman was given a hive, queen bee, protective clothing and equipment necessary to produce her own honey.
Ashraf Ahmed, the director of the SEDO office says their program offers more than just beekeeping classes.
"We teach a five-day, small business course and we also teach various trade skills such as cosmetology, sewing and computers," Ahmed said.
John Dunham, economic section leader with the Salah ad-Din provincial Reconstruction Team who has been working closely with the local Iraqi community says the PRT's goal is to advise and assist the Iraqis in progressing forward on their own.
"We're past doing things for them," Dunham said. "They're doing things for themselves now. We want them to drive progress and it's working. We're seeing things like this more and more."
Ahmed says they have seen positive results so far and have hopes of expanding their program. In the future they plan to start a micro-grant program to give loans to their most promising students.
"Some of the people we've trained have gone on to teach many others," Ahmed said. "It's a force multiplier and it has been a success."