Welcome to Kurdistan!
The WOW Foundation worked with The Lotus Flower to nominate and photograph these women from a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The non-profit, built in reponse to the 2014 humanitarian crisis in Iraq, supports women and girls impacted by conflict in three different camps in the region. Taban Shoresh, Founder of The Lotus Flower, was a speaker at WOW Festival London in 2020.
Justice: Hiba (2020) by Layla, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
"My dream was to study medicine, and hopefully I will study it so that I treat sick people and the poor and people in need. This is my dream."
Hiba - Lotus Flower Center
"I'm in the 6th grade of high school - I finished at the top of my class in all of Iraq with an average of 99.88. Firstly, this was with the help of God, then with my family's support..."
Domestic Life: Malaka (2020) by Ghazal, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Malaka - Lotus Flower Center
"I made cakes before ISIS took over our village, and after we fled I wasn't able to work because I had to look after a sick family member for three years. I also had no money to get a business going again after we fled. The Lotus Flower then provided funds to kickstart the Baking Sisters business, a bakery near the entrance of Rwanga (Qadiya) camp, where I live."
"I am able to provide for my daughter, who was born in the first year of displacement - I wasn't able to do that before it. I buy whatever she needs. I don't bring my daughter here right now, due to Covid-19, but before the virus, she was here with me every day."
Conflict: Antisar (2020) by Layla, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Antisar - Lotus Flower Center
"I give awareness sessions about gender-based Violence (GBV) and Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) within the displacement camp in which I live. At The Lotus Flower, we try to empower women by providing opportunities to learn new skills, earn an income, and support themselves and their families."
"However, empowerment sometimes comes with a new set of conflict, mainly, with male members of the families unhappy with the new roles or attitudes of the women.”
Finance and Economy: Khunaf (2020) by Layla, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Khunaf - Lotus Flower Center
“My name is Khunaf. I'm from Shingal/ Khanasor complex. I came to Qadiya. I would like to thank [Lotus Flower] for building this shop for us. We had no salary, no nothing, we thank you so much for what you brought for us"
"We call this green grains Kazean - we get it from trees and wash it, the ones float on water we throw away,and the ones go down water we collect it and put it into these bags and sell each bag for 3500 IQD.”
Cultural Life, Arts and Expression: Nadifa (2020) by Ghazal, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Nadifa - Lotus Flower Center
"I found that women were in a very weak situation [and] I said that sports will help them to protect themselves when they aren't with their brothers or parents. Even when women have no weapons with them, they can save themselves from those bad guys."
"Many of my students said that they were getting better mentally after being trained. They were tired mentally and psychologically before training. So, I taught them sports and boxing together."
Health: Ghazal (2020) by Layla, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Ghazal - Lotus Flower Center
"I work for The Lotus Flower organization - my job at the center is to give awareness sessions about Coronavirus to people near their homes throughout the camp, as well as within The Lotus Flower center."
"Without this initiative, little information would be known among the thousands of people living in close proximity to one another in the camp, about the virus and the ways to prevent the spread.”
Education: Ahlam (2020) by Ghazal, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Ahlam - Lotus Flower Center
"We teach letters first and then the meanings of words, etc. We start from zero because many of the women in the camp have no education, but know that learning new skills, especially language skills, will pave the way for a prosperous future. We want to develop our community, raise the level of education, and allow for increased employment.”
Identity: Layla (2020) by Ghazal, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Layla - Lotus Flower Center
"I studied accounting at university and played soccer in my free time, but my dream is to be a journalist. I am the photographer for The Lotus Flower. I took the Storytelling Sisters photography course in the summer of 2019 and have been photographing since, as well as writing poetry that tell the stories of the photos.
"I feel like this is a big part of my identity, and I am able to express myself through photos and words. I took this picture of my father sometime last year, and he has recently passed away. I’m grieving a lot, he was a really important part of me, so this picture is one of my most prized possessions.”
Education: Nada (2020) by Ghazal, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Nada - Lotus Flower Center
"I make videos on the camp WhatsApp group for awareness about Covid-19 because we aren’t able to meet people in their homes to talk about it. While the virus is a big part of our community and the world, education has come to a halt in so many places."
"Online learning has become the only way for education to continue, and so we had to join the trend and teach our awareness programs in a way that people can reach them - online through Whatsapp.”
Leadership, Power and Politics: Zaynab (2020) by Layla, a Storytelling Sister trained by Lotus FlowerWOW - Women of the World Foundation
Zaynab - Lotus Flower Center
"I am an advocate for women in any way that I can be. I think the courses taught in the centers, although they focus mainly on tangible skills, are somewhat also leadership courses. Knowing skills that most in the community don’t know, makes the women that take our courses natural leaders, and encourages them to take positions of power within the community."
"Many of the women that take our courses then because the teachers of the course. That is, I think, the ultimate goal of our community - not just reaching women and girls and teaching them new skills, but also teaching them to reach into their communities to do the same.”