HALABJA, Kurdistan Region – In Halabja’s socially conservative culture, many believe a woman’s place is in the home. But as households struggle to make ends meet, families are increasingly open to their daughters entering the workforce.
It has become commonplace to see women in work in Erbil and Sulaimani. But when a group of young women began serving tea and coffee at a café in Halabja city centre last year, it caused quite a stir.
“We opened this café a year ago,” barista Shadan Nuradin told Rudaw.
“At the beginning, there were only two of us, but now we have more work and there are now six girls working together and running the café,” she said.
“At the beginning we got a lot of criticism but we didn’t give up. Now other people are following our path and doing the same thing,” Shadan added.
Earning $400-$500 per month, employment has given these women a greater sense of independence. For university student Prusha Jamal, the income has boosted her self-worth.
“I am an English language student at Halabja University. I love my work and it makes me feel more confident and like I am standing on my own two feet,” Prusha said.
“It has not prevented me from studying. I have been working in this café for 9 months. We work daily from 6 to 12 pm. We offer more than 12 types of coffee and a variety of different juices and sweets to our customers,” she added.
The café is busiest at night and mostly caters to women. Customers are glad to see women working and hope more will follow their example.
“I am proud these ladies work here. It’s a very beautiful phenomenon and has become a source of pride for our city,” said customer Sana Fayaq. “Now a number of other ladies have followed them and are now working.”