A Drive to Support Her Community

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Despite harassment, Zeena offers paid driving lessons to women in her hometown of Ramadi. Money saved from these lessons helped her restart her sewing business.

Zeena Maher is a 39-year-old seamstress and mother of four from Tamim City in western Iraq. When ISIS occupied Ramadi, her sewing shop was destroyed and she lost her only source of income. 

Despite what she lost, Zeena was determined to buy new machines and open up a new workshop. Zeena looked for anything she could do to make money to restart her business. Eventually, Zeena started teaching her female neighbors to drive, a role that is considered unseemly for a woman in Tamim.  

Despite being harassed on multiple occasions by members of her community, Zeena continued to give lessons until she saved up enough to purchase new machines and re-open a sewing shop from her home. When she’s not in front of her sewing machine, Zeena volunteers her time helping vulnerable members of her community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zeena sewed facemasks and distributed them to her neighbors. 

Whether she was giving driving lessons or handing out her homemade facemasks, Zeena started talking to the women in her community. She quickly realized many other women were frustrated. Men in the community were harassing them too – for driving, working, or just walking alone.  

When USAID invited Zeena to participate in a community problem-solving dialogue, she found a platform to speak up for the women in her community. “I’m really glad to participate in this session, the problems and criticisms that I faced have been shared, and the appropriate solutions will be proposed so that me and other women can safely exercise our most basic rights within our cities, as women are a main pillar of a stable future,” she said.

USAID’s community problem-solving dialogues facilitate community engagement to identify the drivers of conflict and develop community-led solutions that will build resilience to social, political, and economic shocks.  As Zeena and other representatives from the community identify the drivers of instability in Tamim, USAID will help implement their proposed solutions to increase community resilience.

Last updated: November 01, 2021

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