Women of the Mahmudiyah Qada filled tables with homemade products and Iraqi souvenirs during a special bazaar on Forward Operation Base Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, Feb 17.
Sponsored by Soldiers of Task Force 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, the innovative event gave troops stationed on the southern base the opportunity to purchase items and assist neighboring Iraqi families at the same time.
â€œThis is a great way for local women to improve their small businesses and take care of their families,â€ said Capt. Sara Woods, with the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion. â€œIt also allows our Soldiers to purchase authentic Iraqi souvenirs and gifts.â€
Many of the women in the Mahmudiyah area lost their husbands to insurgent violence and struggle to provide for their families; making them easy targets for insurgents. The bazaar served as a way to show them they can create a better future for their families.
â€œThis is a good project that is helping widows and people who need the money. I am so happy to be a part of it,â€ said Madiha Gumar, one of the small business owners, and a member of the Mahmudiyah Womenâ€™s Group.
This is the second bazaar Soldiers of TF 1-63 CAB have had the opportunity to be involved with and was much larger and had more participants than the first. Those who took part in the bazaar felt, not only they were walking away with something to take home, but also giving back to the local Iraqi community.
â€œIt was very beneficial in what weâ€™re trying to do for Iraq. From a personal stand point it was really gratifying to know we were helping the widows and their children,â€ said Dale Hamilton, a civilian law enforcement professional attached to TF 1-63 CAB.
Although the bazaar was considered a success at the end of the day, it also presented a foundation for each woman present to continue and expand her business.
â€œThey came in and they sold these products to the Soldiers, and I think each one of them walked out with a couple hundred dollars,â€ said Lt. Col. Anne Resty, a Womenâ€™s Initiative coordinator. â€œSo now afterwards they can buy more fabric and other materials to make more products that they can sell in the local markets as well.â€
The event also helped to increase the good relationship between the people of Mahmudiyah and the MND-B Soldiers stationed on FOB Mahmudiyah.
â€œThe more they see us as helpful Americans and they get to know us, they get to know that we have children, they get to know that we have spouses, and they get to know that weâ€™re just normal peopleâ€¦and the benefits are multi-faceted,â€ said Resty. â€œTheyâ€™re going to think of us as normal people and that we can help them.â€