My sister Zinah Saleh who lives in Baghdad started Ishtar handmade soap in 2014 that was the first of its kind in Iraq using only natural raw materials. The project was self funded and aimed to hire women in need. In Ishtar there are 12 women who work full time and over 25 women who work part time all around Iraq to sell and make the products.
The project started as a small Facebook group then we created a page and after 3 years the project grew and took the step to open the first store in Baghdad in 2017 which was very shocking to many people as they saw how women work on their own with no help from the government or grants.
Here is what Zinah wrote on about this :
We make handmade soap with fresh ingredients and our business is very famous in Iraq and it represent the power of women
We were successful to represent our business in many international conferences in Europe , England , north Africa. As a small business that help women in a country that is still affected by war , economic problems , and the lack of opportunities for women. The last time we represented Iraq in the Peace Palace in Netherlands in front of the queen.
We proved that being women in a middle eastern country suffering from war does not make us victims and we should all create our opportunities for us and other people to help women be empowered.
We survived the last 5 years with the challenges of working in only 1 room in our house exchanging shifts because of the small place as it’s very expensive to buy or rent a house and then turn it into a workshop.
And as we import most of our raw materials from the united states this was another challenge because we lost so many packages due to bad shipping and the high heat in Iraq were most of our packaging was broken and most of our butters were melted in the high heat, for the last year we lost raw materials that cost us over 15000$
This loss made us take many steps back and we had to ask 5 of our workers to leave until we can do something to get back to work or close the store so we can pay to have a workshop.
Now as we are making weekly sales to collect money for new raw materials we wanted to start this campaign to raise funds for a workshop , a place that can gather all of us so we can make more products and store our new raw materials and hopefully we can work to make international deliveries so we can sell more and get back on our feet.
In Iraq renting a workshop in a safe places like Mansour or Jadria is very expensive , almost 2000$/month which will be a lot of money as we are already paying rent for the store and rent for a small caravan that we put our packaging in , cheap areas will be dangerous for a group of women to be in a house alone.
So we found a workshop in Shaab city which is far away from the store but little better than cheap areas and with a reasonable price 1000$/month , so our first goal is to raise $24000 for the rent of 2 years and hopefully we can raise more money so we get new raw materials and pay rent for extra year.
If we collect the money We will keep you updated with everything regarding the workshop and how we will turn it into a place for great soap making, and we also would like to invite any of the donors who would like to visit us in the store and the workshop and see our work and try our products.
Please help us with anything you can offer or share our campaign with all your friends and network to support our business. We want to stay in the market as women to inspire and empower all the women of Iraq, Middle East , and the World".