After she got married at the age of 22, Marwa Raed Taha did not question her future as a housewife. But as the years passed, she realised that she was starting to suffocate.
Raising her two daughters had always been her priority, yet she also realised that she had ambitions of her own, Taha said.
After months spent arguing about why he would not let her go out and work, Taha’s husband finally agreed to have a divorce instead.
Something that Taha did not dare tell her family and friends at first.
“They were telling me: ‘How could you take this decision?’ There was a lot of blame. ‘You need to sit at home, to bear the situation,'” Taha recalled her relatives telling her after the separation.
Rebelling against the stigmatisation she said she suffers from as a single mother by choice in Iraq, Taha took on the challenge of caring for her two daughters and fulfilling her dreams head on.
She took on a job at one of Baghdad’s electricity directorates where she now repairs electrical equipment, something many consider as work for men.
She remembers people suggesting she should do office work or open a restaurant instead. But Taha, a graduate in automation engineering from the University of Baghdad, decided she rather needed to do something in-line with her studies.
Being able to provide for her daughters remains a struggle, Taha told Reuters, adding that she has not been receiving her salary regularly since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is why Taha decided to launch her own start-up, Green Gold, dedicated to recycling organic waste and producing compost.
In a small farm she established in the town of Balad, Taha produces compost that she sells not only to earn an income but also to raise awareness on the importance of agriculture.
Her activities include manufacturing what she calls ‘GG Balls’, small balls of compost that contain seedlings to plant at home.
Once her project grows, Taha wants to employ women who are unable to work outside of their home and encourage them to carve out their independence.
Taha also finds time to volunteer with a local NGO that supports orphans and children raised by a single parent, to help inspire a new generation of Iraqis to have some dreams of their own.
During the visit to a shelter, still in ruins, where more than 400 civilians were killed in 1991, Taha and the children read Quranic verses to honour their memories, but also to reflect on the miracle of life.
“We wanted to take the life energy that children have in themselves, to use it to turn everything that is dead into something alive,” she said.
(Saba Kareem, Charlotte Bruneau)