Skip to comments.Seminar Educates Iraqi Businesswomen
Posted on 06/24/2009 4:12:32 PM PDT by SandRat
BAGHDAD — Sustainment contracting was the focus of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division (GRD)-sponsored women's business seminar here, June 20, as 35 Iraqi businesswomen attended this half-day event, part of a continuing series of meetings for the Women's Advocate Initiative.
"Our goal is to encourage and support Iraqi businesswomen to be more involved in the execution and management of construction and in non-construction projects," Richard Hancock, GRD director of programs, told the audience.
Many of GRD’s contracts are awarded to small, Iraqi-owned businesses. The focus of the Women's Advocate Initiative is shifting from construction projects toward ongoing sustainment as building activities wind down.
Andy Scharein, a program manager in GRD's Operations and Maintenance section, encouraged the audience with the potential value of sustainment contracts.
"Normally, [operations and maintenance] is where a lot of money can be made, because a construction project may last a year-and-a-half while building a facility, but for 10, 20 or 30 years or more, that facility will need to be cared for," Scharein said. "And 5-10 percent of what that facility cost, is generally what we think it takes to take care of it. So over time, it [means] stable employment, and good money to be able to do these kinds of efforts."
Mohamad Husam, deputy program manager for GRD's Operations, Maintenance and Sustainment program, presented a history of GRD's experience with 133 Primary Healthcare Centers constructed across Iraq, and how maintaining these facilities could mean business opportunities for Iraqi women.
To jump-start that process, GRD has committed to performing maintenance on 17 of the completed Primary Healthcare Centers, which could be good news for women-owned businesses.
Four Iraqi businesswomen briefed the audience about the success of their projects arranged through GRD contracts. Hancock noted these projects were operations, maintenance, and capacity development work for Primary Healthcare Centers.
"In fact, 50 percent of contracts [for Primary Healthcare Centers] were won by women-owned businesses," Hancock said.
Azza Humadi, program manager for GRD's Women's Advocate Initiative, said the woman contractors completed their work at the Primary Healthcare Centers ahead of schedule and the opportunity to present summaries of their work to the audience was part of her program to develop leadership skills.
Set-aside percentages of business for women in Iraq are not always needed. Because GRD's invitations to bid are open to all Iraqis, businesses owned by women are already winning contract awards on their own merit against the entire field of competitors.
"We always try to focus on new ideas and new ways to encourage women to enter fields that they have never entered before so that they will have wider fields to be involved in," Humadi said.
The keynote speaker at the seminar was Iraqi Member of Parliament Safiya Talib Al-Suhail, who has a long history of promoting the rights and status of Iraqi women. Suhail told the audience that regarding the advancement of women in Iraq, education is everything.
"The most important thing is to change the thought processes about how to improve women to develop their capacity and be involved more in this society," Suhail said. "It is important to know how to educate and train women to be involved in this process of development. But the major support for these training forces, and of the educational courses [now] is a team from outside Iraq; not the Iraqis. It is also important to allocate the funds to support women and to improve their skills in this process [by having] an Iraqi strategy. It’s about time to have our own strategy and have our government involved in this directly."
Prior to implementation of the Security Agreement, the women's business seminar topics have discussed the nuts and bolts of doing business with the Americans and Coalition partners operating in Iraq - how to find the announcements, how to register with the contracting office, how to bid and write proposals, how to perform the work, the production of progress reports, and so forth.
The women's business program began in 2005, and so far has directed $500 million to Iraqi businesswomen who perform service or construction contracts for various Coalition forces and agencies operating in the country.
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