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The longing remains strong

Doaa A. and her seven-year-old son Ahmad spent several months in an almost empty apartment in Balingen in Baden-Württemberg waiting for their new life to begin. Originally the 29-year-old wanted to return to Iraq back in April, but all flights were cancelled due to the corona pandemic. She is finally hoping she can realise her dream of opening her own hairdressing and beauty salon in Baghdad.

Back in July, this young woman radiated a sense of confidence and energy. She is a trained hairdresser who arrived in Germany in 2015, passed her German exam at level B1 and soon found work in a hairdresser's shop. Nevertheless, she didn't feel settled in Germany. Her longing for friends, siblings and the whole atmosphere of her home district of Mansour in Baghdad simply wouldn't go away. "I feel alone here", she thought to herself. So Doaa A. decided to voluntarily return to her homeland.

Ein Portraitbild von einer Frau.

Special assistance for returning women

Doaa A. received assistance from BBQ Bildung und Berufliche Qualifizierung gGmbH/Newplacement International (NPI). Her case worker at the district administration had already referred her there. NPI project manager Irmgard Kolbe advised her about funding opportunities for returnees, and they jointly developed concrete plans for the future.

Contact restrictions due to the corona pandemic came into force shortly after Doaa A., an interpreter and Irmgard Kolbe came together for their first conversation. "We had to manage everything digitally – which was totally new for us", says Irmgard Kolbe, who coordinated those involved. They included, among others, a GIZ reintegration scout at the Freiburg District Association of the German Red Cross (DRK), the agency Social Impact which helped Doaa A. with her business plan, and the Iraqi-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration (GMAC) in Baghdad. GIZ operates GMAC on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Taking part in the business start-up training provided by Social Impact enabled Doaa A. to apply to the district administration for funds from the "ERIN Action Plan 2016". This is a special project run by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). It enables returnees to receive additional funding beyond the normal assistance available to them. The conditions are that she starts her own promising business and employs at least one other person who is not a family member. Returning women can also receive special assistance to enable them to become financially independent.

Das Bild zeigt zwei Frauen, die sich an einen Weidenzaun lehnen.

Online tutorial videos and advice via Skype

The pandemic meant that Doaa A. couldn't engage in any formal training. But she was able to use online tutorial videos to practice techniques that are currently in high demand in Iraq – like using clips to attach hair extensions. Most importantly, she and her coach from Social Impact worked together for six weeks to develop her business plan.

Advice was provided via Skype and WhatsApp, and the online meetings lasted a total of ten hours. They calculated the investment and running costs for the first four months, for example – from buying chairs, mirrors, care products and shop rent to the personnel costs for her assistant. Doaa A. and her coach also considered a marketing concept and worked out her likely income. The Mansour district is relatively wealthy, and women there spend more money on hair styling and make-up. Brides and female guests enjoy being lavishly pampered before weddings in particular. Doaa A. is confident: "I know exactly what my customers want."

As of: 11/2020

I know exactly what my customers want.
Doaa A.