How the Polish Centre for International Aid is helping rebuild Iraq
Since its founding in 2006, the Polish Centre for International Aid (PCPM) - the largest NGO in Poland working in the field of development - has focused on activities that facilitate economic growth, job creation and increase emergency preparedness.
Supporting Iraqis rebuild their war-torn country, one of its main projects is helping Iraqi women start up in business.
Due to the socio-cultural norms that apply in federal Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, it is harder for local women to take up their own professional initiatives and achieve financial independence.
Nikodem Chinowski, a volunteer for the PCPM told TFN: “A total of 130 women living in Sheihan submitted their applications. The commission, made up of representatives of PCPM, local authorities and the Supreme Women's Council, established the criteria based on which the best 44 project proposals were selected.
“Preference was given to women in a difficult financial situation, single mothers and service profiles that were lacking in the city. These 44 women underwent 10-day training in the basics of entrepreneurship and learned how to run accounting, create a business plan, fill out formal applications and learned the basics of law.
“Ultimately, 30 projects were submitted to the commission, 18 of which – submitted by 19 women – were approved.”
For each idea that has been approved by the commission, the EU allocates USD 3,000 (PLN 13,000) under the MASAR (Maintaining Strength and Resilience for Local Governments in Iraq and Lebanon) programme.
The total value of the project is USD 65,000.
Khalid Nermo Zedo, chairman of the Sheihan district in Iraqi Kurdistan, said: “The programme aimed to increase women's professional activity, run by the PCPM, is an important initiative not only for women but also for our entire community.
“Until 2003, there were no women in Sheihan involved in entrepreneurship or business, even in a very basic form. Since 2003, there has been significant progress in the social perception of the role of women, and NGOs such as PCPM have emerged to encourage and assist women.
“The priority was to help women in a difficult economic situation, without any work, often living only on the financial help of their relatives.”
Another key project is aimed at reducing water consumption.
Most houses in Mosul do not have working meters and most residents do not pay for water at all, which often makes consumption wasteful.
The PCPM supplied a server, workstations and software, thanks to which areas of the city will be covered by a computer water consumption register.
Maan Sadiq Yusef, director of the water department in Mosul said: “The introduction of an electronic measuring system for water consumption will reduce water consumption by residents, as well as eliminate corruption and undue payments by collectors.”
The cost of the computer system delivered to Mosul is USD 73,000. For now, it is a pilot project, but ultimately 180,000 households in the Mosul agglomeration will be connected to the system.
At the water directorate in Sheihan, the PCPM has also helped provide running water for 4,000-5,000 residents.
The PCPM also repaired the sewage network in Batnaya in northern Iraq. The investment worth over USD 200,000 provides sewage services to around 200 families.
Abu Yusef, a resident of Batnaya village, said: “There used to be 1,500 families here, today only 180. A lot of people fled ISIS, we were on the front line, and the inhabitants moved to Kurdistan.
“We are a village on the border between federal Iraq and Kurdistan, but neither side wants us, because we are mostly Chaldeans, so as a minority we are a problem.
“But now we get real help from Polish people and are able to deal somehow with the water supply.”
In addition, the PCPM has been helping support local authorities with expert knowledge in areas like spatial planning and municipal services.
Last month saw the inauguration of a shopping center in the city of Telkaif in northern Iraq, which will house local vendors, service providers and medical services.
The tallest building in the city, it is also the only one equipped with an elevator.
Writing on its website, the PCPM said: “The mall building was constructed on the site of the Old Bazaar, which consisted of merchants’ booths in a very poor state of repair, which were demolished to free up space for a trading house.
“The merchants who operated the Old Bazaar were employees of the municipality. Now the tenants are to be independent and run the business on their own.
“The tenants will be chosen by a special committee, which will be guided primarily by the criterion of the proposed rent price and the business profile, so that the range of services and the assortment of trade is diversified.”