More young women in Kirkuk are taking up jobs in the city’s marketplaces to provide a source of income for themselves and their families as well.
According to a follow-up conducted by KirkukNow the number of female employees at stores and malls has increased considerably compared to previous years.
“We sometimes face sexual harassment in the workplace, but we often choose silence to keep our jobs,” says Aisha Kamal, 25.
Aisha, a university student studying business management, works in a mall in Kirkuk from 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. She uses the money she earns from her job to pay tuition fees and also to support her family.
“This job helped improve my business management skills. Besides making new friends, working here provided me with precious information about the famous commercial brands in the world,” she added.
In the past few years a small number of female employees could be seen in marketplaces due to the influence of the society’s preconception.
Dalya Muhammad, 22, was in the 12th grade when was forced to drop out of school and work at an ice-cream shop to support her family.
“I couldn’t afford to hire private teachers so that I could get high marks to enroll in university; therefore, I decided to quit school.”
Dalya has also been a victim of sexual harassment, yet she didn’t give in and overcame the obstacles.
By choosing to work amid the hustle and bustle of the market, Kirkuk women say they that besides the economic factor, they aim to achieve independence like any other individual in the society.
Working women frequently experience harassment but they tend to choose silence to keep their jobs
Sirood Ahmed, head of the Kirkuk office of the Iraqi Amal (Hope) Association, speaking to KirkukNow, said, “Working women frequently experience harassment and face challenges and obstacles but they tend to choose silence to keep their jobs which is their only source of income.”
The majority of the sexual harassment crimes in Kirkuk range from derogatory comments and sexually oriented gestures, like touching in addition to other types of violence against women and girls.
The Iraqi supreme judicial council last August issued a series of measures to address sexual harassment including the reactivation of articles in the Iraqi penal code which impose certain punishments on offenders.
According to one of the articles, anyone commits sexual harassment is punishable by one year imprisonment in addition to a fine.
“We often urge victims of sexual harassment to talk about it with their families; sometimes women who face harassment on the social media resort to the national security service,” says Sirood Ahmed.
The women rights activist criticized the sluggishness of the government in dealing with such critical cases, stressing that sexual harassment cases need quick interventions.