As English is the main language that is spoken throughout the world, it is becoming an essential skill to learn for professional development in the Middle East. Beginning in January 2017, the Lotus Flower began offering beginner and intermediate-level English courses for women. Each course can last between 1 – 3 months, depending on the needs of the students.
To complement the language courses and provide additional professional skills, the Lotus Flower provides computer training courses for women and girls. This training provides a base level of computer skills, which are a valuable asset in most modern professions. Most of the women and girls attending these courses had never used a computer before, so the instructors start from the basics, including turning the computers on and off, opening files, and using office software.
As the rise of ISIS forced many people to flee their homes, internally-displaced people fled to camps in northern Iraq. The majority of IDPs are from small villages and most of the female population were unable to attend school due to traditional, conservative policies or a lack of financial resources. As many of the women now find themselves solely responsible for their family, the lack of education has potential disastrous consequences for their future.
The majority of camp residents are Yezidi and have a farming background that spans generations. As the women’s centre includes a plot of unused land, we wanted to facilitate an opportunity for women to use skills that have been taught to them by their ancestors while also providing an income to support their families. The women have recently started to garden and plant seasonal vegetables.
What started as a small project, utilising the talents of a few skilled bakers amongst the women is going to develop into a longer term cafe project, to build a more extensive community space that will help foster relationships, confidence and community spirit.
During the program, the girls worked together to produce a magazine called Afrandin (meaning Creation), which they wrote, edited and designed. At the beginning, some of the Yezidi and Muslim girls would not even sit together, but by the end, they were working in harmony and building lasting friendships. One of the girls has since even been hired at a Yezidi publication.
We offer a variety of programming to support mental health including awareness sessions, group discussions, art therapy (painting and knitting), community outreach and home visits. Topics include SGBV prevention, domestic violence, emotional abuse, prevention of early marriage, women’s rights.
The Lotus Flower Women’s Business Incubator (WBI) provides a financial foundation and business mentorship for women-led small businesses. In addition, our women’s centre will host educational sessions on gender-based violence and women’s legal rights.