“I am really delighted to have had the opportunity to work with SPARK to develop their entrepreneurship training modules,” says Cantillon. “The support available to women entrepreneurs in regions affected by crisis, conflict or displacement is minimal. SPARK’s innovative work in this area is inspiring, especially in how they open up opportunities for women, vulnerable groups and young people to enter the labor market or access pathways to employment. employment as entrepreneurs.

Currently, 65 women are enrolled in the intensive five-week online course. Subsequently, the selected entrepreneurs will have access to four-week mentoring sessions.

Improving women’s employment has already become a vital priority for many target countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, including the Kurdistan region.

Iraq, including the Kurdistan region

In Iraq and its semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, an underdeveloped private sector, domestic pressure and social prejudices limit women’s ability to find employment.

According to a demographic survey conducted by the government of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, only 15 percent of working-age women are in the workforce, one of the lowest rates in the world. Up to 75 percent of employed women in Kurdistan work in the public sector. It is therefore rare to see women entrepreneurs in the region.

The regional government has adopted several policies to protect and promote the employment of women, including the granting of maternity leave, the prohibition of discrimination against women and efforts to increase the participation of women in employment. the public sphere. (See a related article, “Center for Gender Studies in Iraqi Kurdistan challenges traditional ideas.”)

The government has also devised several reconstruction and poverty reduction strategies that aim to rebuild the agriculture, education and health sectors, each of which faces immense setbacks as a result of the recent conflict. This indicates that these sectors have the potential to continue providing jobs for women in the years to come.


Despite their great entrepreneurial spirit, Lebanese women have yet to reach their potential to participate in the labor market and start their own businesses. According to the World Economic Forum “Global Gender Gap Report 2018”, Women in the Lebanese workforce are largely limited to paid employment, and even there they lag far behind men with a labor force participation rate of 26 percent.

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