Hanaa glowed as she talked. It was her best month in business so far—she earned 400,000 Iraqi dinar, the equivalent of the basic level worker’s salary in Iraq. Granted, it was the month before Eid, the very best time of year for a seamstress to earn money. Hanaa’s relatives and neighbors were all having new dresses made for the holiday. But still, just three months after you invested in her business, Hanaa was encouraged!
Hanaa has always worked since her husband was killed. She has no choice, their four children need to be taken care of. But Hanaa’s income was always very small—she didn’t have the tools she needed to work efficiently. This family of five lives in a single room, with a small kitchen off the side, in her parent’s backyard. This is all she could afford.
But Hanaa has dreams of having a small house one day, for her and her children.
Hanaa taught herself how to sew around nine years ago. Hanaa’s mother never learned to sew, but a neighbor had a small sewing machine she let her use. This neighbor didn’t teach her how to use the machine, but encouraged her to try, and this has set the tone for Hanaa’s approach to work to this day.
Failure wasn’t an option for Hanaa. Even if she made mistakes along the way, her children needed clothes, and she needed to make them. She didn’t let the fear of failure stop her, not ever.
Hanaa’s first adventure in sewing was cutting down her older daughter’s too-small dresses and altering them to suit her younger daughter. It cost her nothing, and she didn’t have to risk ruining new fabric. When the neighbors saw what a nice job she was doing, they sent Hanaa their older clothes to do the same thing for their families.
Next, Hanaa started to make new dresses for her daughters and her sisters. When her family and neighbors saw the garments she made, they wanted her to make clothes for them too.
Hanaa loved the work, but it was slow going without a sewing machine of her own.
Your investment in Hanaa’s business allowed her to turn her love of sewing, her skills and creativity, and her serious work ethic into a profitable business. You provided her with a sewing machine that allows her to make garments in a fraction of the time. She used her early profits to buy fabric wholesale, which she offers for retail prices to her customers, diversifying her business.
Hanaa’s two teenage daughters help her with final finishing work, while she does all the designing and piece work. By involving her girls, Hanaa is teaching them the craft and allowing them to have a role in helping the family.
Hanaa keeps her prices low while she continues to grow her customer base, so she doesn’t make much on each individual garment. But she says she makes enough for them.
She makes enough for them.
What an incredible achievement!
Hanaa was disappointed that we visited after Eid, as she’d sold all of her best designs and couldn’t show us. But we think the timing of our visit was perfect! We got to hear Hanaa share her excitement about her success. And we got to see fabric on her sewing table, ready for her next order, and getting her one step closer to a little house of their own.
Partner with women in supporting their families and pursuing their dreams.