‘But you’re a woman’: Iraqi furniture maker doles out stereotypes – Digital Journal

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Nour Janabi has been making furniture for several years and launched her business, Nour Carpentry, a few months ago – Copyright AFP Sabah ARAR

William Decame

With a hammer and a saw, Nour al-Janabi is building her latest creation, a candy-pink sofa, in the carpentry shop she runs in conservative, male-dominated Iraq.

“At first, the relatives criticized me,” said the 29-year-old carpenter and cabinetmaker, who is also the mother of four children.

“They said: ‘But you’re a woman… You’re an amateur… It’s a man’s job.’”

Upholstered in velvet or imitation leather, the sofas and armchairs that he designs, manufactures and repairs in his workshop in southern Baghdad range from rustic to Louis XV style.

Its order book is full, with new salons starting at 700,000 dinars (about $480).

Janabi has been making furniture for several years and launched her business, Nour Carpentry, a few months ago. She recently moved operations from her home to a house converted into a shop, where she has four employees, one of whom is her husband who is a retiree of hers.

“But it’s not right to say it like that,” she said with an embarrassed smile, her hijab covering her hair.

In oil-rich Iraq, women make up just 13.3 percent of the workforce, according to the World Bank, while the World Economic Forum ranked the country 154 out of 156 in its latest Global Income Gap Report. Gender.

A study published last year by two UN agencies noted that while most Iraqis view tertiary education as equally important for men and women, “attitudes toward equal rights in employment are discriminatory against women.” women”.

– ‘You make Iraq proud’ –

Janabi attributes her success in large part to the DIY tutorials she first posted on Facebook to share her passion for woodworking and furniture making.

He uploads videos on everything from re-stuffing an old sofa to using a sander on TikTok and Instagram, where he has more than 94,000 followers.

“I am the first Iraqi woman to do this job and break the barrier in this field,” she said, in a country still largely dominated by conservative attitudes about the role of women in society, and where those perceived as too Independents are sometimes even considered immoral. .

He said he gets comments from women and men who tell him: “You make Iraq proud and you’ve accomplished something.”

“May God give you strength and health!” a user commented on a video of Janabi presenting a sofa decorated with a floral pattern.

One of her clients, Abu Sajjad, dropped by to see how her sofa repairs were going, unconcerned about the prejudices others might harbor against dealing with a carpenter and business owner.

The majority of working women in Iraq are teachers or nurses, although a small number have gone into the police or armed forces.

One of them is Angham al-Tamimi, who this year became the first female general in the army.

In a video released by the military press service, he said he had been “confronted with the non-acceptance of women in the army.”

But he said he had made it through his “persistence” and “passion.”

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