Zilan Serwud, the 22-year-old owner of the Zee Burger food truck, poses for a picture in Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on August 17, 2019. AFP / SAFIN HAMED
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Smiling proudly, Zilan Serwud welcomed hungry customers swarming her newly opened food truck in Kurdish Iraq. But launching the venture required more than just permits and loans: Serwud needed family approval. Lingering societal prejudice, family pressures and an underdeveloped private sector have constrained women from breaking into the Iraqi workforce, including in Kurdistan. Among employed women in Kurdistan, up to 75 percent work in the public sector."What actually destroys women in our society is the word 'shameful,'" Diman Fatah, 59, said.She opened Irbil's first female-run plant nursery and chairs a botanical club with 450 members, including 25 women.A 2013 United Nations survey found that 66 percent of Iraqi youth supported the right of women to work, compared to just 42 percent among the elderly -- a marked generational improvement. 'Women are resilient' Avan Jaff, a female Kurdish labor activist who publishes online testimonies of women entrepreneurs, told AFP that she had noticed a shift, too.
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