I am writing with a one-time request on behalf of a group of incredible women in H3 camp in Northern Iraq who were displaced due to the violence and fighting in the war with ISIS. Before they fled, most of them lived in occupied Mosul for years and suffered tremendous personal losses. They now reside in a camp for displaced people. I have just had the privilege of spending two months with them (as a part of doctoral research). These women remain highly distressed as a result of their experiences and the camp conditions are bleak.
Despite this, they have started a self-led sewing group that has helped more than 250 women have rare opportunities for:
- Community outside of their tents
- A safe place to gather publicly
- Fabric to make much needed clothing
- The chance to complete a sewing training course.
- A number of women have shared that the group has brought them 'happiness' that they not felt for some time.
Sadly, after September, the logistics support they had in the camp will be ending. (Bringing fabric from city, use of machines and facility). However they have asked for help for ONE MORE MONTH. This support will ALLOW 80 MORE WOMEN to participate.
Funding contributions are needed to purchase 8 fabric rolls, thread and materials and cover the costs of the three trainers. Here is the type of support needed:
- £10: Sponsors one woman to complete the course
- £20: Provides fabric for 5 women to participate
- £30: Covers the cost of the thread and sewing supplies
- £40: Covers a full fabric roll, giving 10 women the fabric needed
- £80: Employs one of the three women leading the Sept training
- £178: Sponsors a week of training for all of the women
The target funds to raise is 720 GBP. 100% of funds raised go directly to the women's group. ANY Contribution will help!
Unfortunately, time is short. (It is time to purchase the fabric rolls). So, if you are interested in supporting, please give as soon as you can!
Thank you again,
Kathleen Rutledge and the H3 Women
P.S. The title of the project: 1 roll-10 lives: 1 roll of fabric provides enough fabric for 10 women to make clothing!
More on life in the camp:
Most of the women in H3 IDP camp are from Mosul and lived in the city, the second largest in Iraq, during the time of ISIS from 2014-2017. (I've adjusted the camp name to protect identity; IDP refers to people internally displaced in their own country). Mosul was the de facto capitol of ISIS. During the liberation of Mosul, which started in 2016, hundreds of thousands of people, including the women I met with, fled the city and many came to camps. Initially, the camps provided much needed shelter, safety and provisions. However, camps are not intended to be long-term residences. And yet, two years since the combat ceased, more than 6,000 people are still in this camp alone. There are many more camps still across the country and hundreds of thousands still displaced.
The conditions in the camp are bleak. It has been in operation for more than two years, opening toward the end of 2016. For most in this camp, they are within miles of where they used to live. Most of them had homes, cars, jobs and lived close to family. During the events from 2014-2017 however, nearly all of the women I spoke to had experienced the death of a friend or loved one and most of them lost their homes and livelihoods. Many lost husbands as well and are trying now to raise children on their own.
People with resources or whose homes weren’t destroyed have long since gone back to their homes. In this camp however - most of the women and their families can’t afford to go back and rebuild, so they remain in the camp. For many, their tents are rotting, with mould in the canvas. For some, the rations of water and food do not cover the family needs. There are very few opportunities for paid work. The temperature in the camp reached 45 C degrees - TODAY. There is no shade available freely to the public – there are only the tents and the small centres that belong to organisations (such as the women's organisation allowing the sewing group to use their facility). The tents actually incubate the heat like a greenhouse. Aid workers are, in most cases, are doing what they can, but funding for people in camps has dropped and there just isn’t enough to respond in the way one would like to do. There is even pressure (from external forces) to close the camps. But where will the women and their families actually go?
The women live in both physical and emotional distress. The feel trapped in physical conditions that are difficult to bear, powerless to take steps toward their own recovery, uncertain and afraid even of what the future may hold, they struggle to cope with the loss of loved ones and traumas they experienced and they are trying to find a way to have meaning and hope in their days. They are also frequently very isolated – as there is no other place in the camp where the women can gather together just as women. The isolation is compounded by the reality that many are widows.
In this context, a small sewing project certainly isn’t much. But it does help address some of the issues they have shared: the desire to be able gather with other women, to have somewhere to go, to have something meaningful to do with their days, to be able to make clothing (for themselves or their children) that is actually suitable for the heat and to have some new livelihoods skills for when they are able to return home. The sewing course takes place in a building where there is also shade; some of the only shade the women may be able to enjoy for some time. So, definitely, the project doesn’t resolve the macro issues that do need resolution. But for the women who are coming to join the sewing course each day, the feedback that I keep receiving is that they are ‘happy’. Based on what I experienced and what I heard from the women I met while in that camp, a day of happiness can be, in itself, a treasure.
I have many pictures of the beautiful dresses the women have made, of the sewing group in action and of the camp itself. The crowdfunding site didn't seem to allow me to add additional photos. I would love to share them and some videos as well if you'd like. Feel free to contact me.
Thank you again for any support you are able to give to the women…I know that, to them, it means the world.