A woman starting her own juice bar business would not sound too unusual to an American. For a woman in Iraq though, the chance to open any kind of business is unique.
Kocher Ali Muhammed received the fourth micro-grant to be presented by the “Red Dragons,” 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, in Kirkuk city, Iraq, to help her start her own juice making company.
“The micro-grants are a form of money used to stimulate business in the area,” said Cpt. Stephen Clark, a San Antonio, Texas, native and information officer for 3rd Bn., 82nd FA Regt.
“We give them enough money to get on their feet,” explained Clark.
For Kocher, this is more than just a chance to get on her feet; it is a chance to assist the fellow women of Kirkuk.
“We are trying to help women become independent,” said Kocher. “Learning a trade gives them the opportunity to support their families.”
“Women aren’t always given the chance to start businesses,” explained Kocher. “We [women] are starting out with this small business and we going to work our way up.”
This gives women the chance to show the country of Iraq that they are capable of starting a business and being successful on their own, said Kocher.
By starting businesses, women are showing that they are capable of doing more than working in the house cooking and cleaning, explained Sgt. 1st Class Betty Ortega, a Miami native and the women’s initiative representative for the “Red Dragon” battalio.
“This will allow them to employ other women,” said Ortega.
According to Ortega, women in Kirkuk city are in the “crawl” phase in their quest for equality. They are opening up small shops like this and are beginning to join the work force in higher numbers.
“We are doing anything we can to broaden their capabilities,” said Ortega.
Kocher will be using her business to do more than just make juice; she will be training a new group of 10 women every two weeks on how to make their own juices and desserts, creating the opportunity for these women to go out and start their own juice businesses.
To obtain the money to start her business, Kocher filled out an application and submitted it to the “Red Dragons.” She answered a few questions about the type of business she planned to start, how much experience she had, and how she was going to come up with any other money needed to get the business up and running.
She explained exactly what supplies she would need, the quantity she needed, and how much they cost.
She submitted her application to 2nd Brigade for review and final approval, and the entire process only took about a week from the start of the application to the delivery of the grant to Kocher.
This particular grant comes after weeks of Soldiers taking to the streets of Kirkuk city explaining to the locals about what micro-grants are and how they work.
“It’s a way to inject money into the local economy,” said Clark.
The great thing about these micro-grants is they have such a fast turnaround time, explained Clark.
Thanks to a little help from the “Red Dragons,” the residents of Kirkuk city will soon have a new spot to buy freshly made, healthy juice. Chai lovers need not be immediately worried.
Story by Pfc. Justin Naylor