Success story

Bridging the gender gap after displacement

Gender gaps are more common where technical skills are required. So when considering their careers, sisters Nadeen and Lina never considered that they might enter graphic design. But after being displaced by ISIS, the sisters were ready for any learning opportunity that came their way.

Clock Icon


min read //

March 8, 2022

Adrie Smith

Head of Content

Bridging the gender gap after displacement
Subscribe to our newsletter
This is some text inside of a div block.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

The gender gap is difficult to bridge for most women in Iraq, especially for those who live in rural areas or who have been displaced. And with many displaced girls and women losing access to education during the ISIS insurgency, Nadeen and Lina count themselves not only lucky but more motivated than ever to seek further learning opportunities.

“We as sisters encourage and support each other to take new experiences, and we are open to learning new things, especially after what we witnessed from ISIS taking control of our hometown and being forcibly displaced for five years. This event had a great impact on both of our lives and gave us the motivation to continue learning and take knowledge as a weapon with which we face life's difficulties and differences in cultures.”

So early in 2021, the sisters started an all-female design program with Re:Coded, ready to experience a new way of learning and to gain a new skill set. In their classroom, they found a very open, and supportive group of women from Qaraqosh from various backgrounds.

In those first days, one message became clear to Nadeen, “Knowledge does not belong to a specific culture. Knowledge is open to all, and everyone can choose what suits them to build their future and live the life they aspire to.”

New mindsets

The design course posed a number of new challenges for the sisters. Thinking “like a designer” was one of the first fundamental lessons that Nadeen and Lina had to learn. Lina shared that looking at the world through a creative lens was not as intuitive as it might seem, “It was uncommon for me to think in a new, different way at the beginning of the classes but as the experience continued it became exciting and challenging to practice these new mindsets.”

Soon the sisters were encouraged to share feedback with their peers, frame constructive criticism, and find their own unique perspectives on their own work and that of others.

With every lesson, Nadeen and Lina became more confident in their skills and creativity.

Building a business together

It wasn’t long until Nadeen and Lina saw opportunities to apply their newfound design skills in their own community.

“It all started when our cousin's first birthday happened while we were taking graphic design classes and we decided to design a special gift for her. We were very pleased when our family liked our design as they were seeing our work for the first time.” Lina shared, with the same excitement of the day.

“Later we were asked to design bridesmaids' stickers and cards for our friend's bachelorette party until we were surprised that our designs were admired by our friends as well, so we got very excited about the idea of creating a design page on Instagram and starting to share our designs there.”

Nadeen and Lina set up an Instagram account initially to share their designs with friends and family, but it soon began to generate interest in orders.

They began to receive different design orders from their local community in Qaraqosh requesting products such as weddings, engagement, graduation invitation cards. Using some tips from their course, Nadeen and Lina set up a business Facebook Page and started building relationships with local printing houses to help their new business take off.

Changing their future

Today, the two sisters are focusing on finishing their university degrees in order to work on improving their design skills. Lina plans to move to Australia to be with her fiancé and she already is planning to pursue design when she arrives.

“I feel that the skills I have gained will help me for a lifetime. Art and creativity are understood languages wherever you go and this only could give me the motivation to be a graphic designer in a foreign country. Not to mention the other precious skills I have learned such as teamwork, communication skills, comprehension of different cultures, and new digital technologies and life skills that have changed the future I see for myself.”

Downloadable content
No items found.

Authors biography

Adrie Smith

Head of Content

Adrie is Re:Coded's Head of Content and has been with Re:Coded since February 2022. With a background in tech recruitment, Adrie found her calling in content back in 2018. Today, she's responsible for creating great content to power the Re:Coded student community.

Here to study?

Browse through bootcamps and courses and find the one that suits you best.

Start Learning
Open study hub image

Looking for more great content?

Try out our Open Study Hub for past events and other relevant content to help you join and thrive in the digital economy.

Open Study Hub