ATA Launches Program for Iraqi Entrepreneurs

Aid to Artisans Makes History in Iraq”¦

It’s hard to imagine that in continuous violence Iraqis are launching businesses””but they are.

  • Iraqi women, like Halima Faraj, a war widow with children to feed, say they “don’t know what their future holds.”
  • Aid to Artisans (ATA), a Connecticut-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income craftspeople build profitable businesses, is used to working with entrepreneurs who face dire situations.
  • On March 10 and 11, 2009, through webcams, Adobe Connect Pro technology and an Arabic translator provided by the U.S. State Department, ATA staff in West Hartford, CT virtually taught 9 Iraqi entrepreneurs, 6 of them women working with as many as 100 business people, how to export, cost and price, differentiate their products with Iraqi traditions, and a key skill: using the Internet since many Iraqis were forbidden during Saddam’s rule. (Worth noting, this was ATA’s first virtual training and the first time a distance learning business training was ever used at the three-month old U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.)
  • ATA is the only organization in its sector working to launch distance learning initiatives so that increase its scale and impact within the global artisan community.

“It is difficult for women as they do not know what their future holds. Historically there is a constant pain, war, continuous war, sanctions which affected women’s lives,” said Halima Faraj, a training participant whose husband was killed last year in the violence.

“ATA is in the process of launching a Virtual University that will offer all of our training modules online in up to 8 languages to artisans anywhere in the world. Using the resources of the Internet allows us to help craftspeople in countries we may not work in, and is especially beneficial in war afflicted regions such as Iraq,” says David O’Connor, ATA President.

“The response from the women was clear as they scribbled notes, asked for website references, and profusely thanked the trainers at the conclusion of the event. With this success, the PRT hopes to conduct similar trainings in the future,” said Telside L. Manson, Public Diplomacy Officer with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Baghdad.

Links to Relevant Coverage


CLIP #1: Portion of session in which Karen talks about “Hang Tags” and
this elicits good discussion and Q/A with the group.

CLIP #2: Discussion about the importance of website as an informational
tool and a way to create targeted email lists.

WNPR Interview

The Hartford Courant

How can you help us?

By donating, and by spreading the word about the importance of distance learning training in our programs. We can no longer just throw money into countries in turmoil””we need to arm them with the tools they need to grow their own businesses.