By Madeleine White.
This is an extract from an article originally published by Nina Iraq, and is reproduced here with permission.
The Iraqi billionaire industrialist shares the secret of his success – Women’s Economic Empowerment!
We had risen early and were driving from Erbil through the mountains to Suli, welcomed by a glorious dawn. I had arrived from London the day before, and my colleagues Sura and Nigar from Baghdad and Sweden, respectively. We were in Iraq and therefore Iraqi women – one of us by geography, two of us by birth.
By 10am we had arrived at Asiacell’s HQ in Sulimania. Nigar, who had met with Kaka Faruk, whispered to me as we went in:
“Don’t forget he is a businessman; he might do good things, but he always wants to know there is a good business reason for him to get involved.”
With that piece of advice ringing in my ears, I went to shake hands with a man famous for taking risks, for making things happen and for building opportunity in places no-one had thought to look before.
My agenda is simple. I want to understand why and how he champions women’s economic empowerment. I am also keen to get his support for Nina. My first question tries to combine all these factors – and I also mention Asiacell’s Almas line.
It is clear from the outset that this quiet, slightly reticent man, with deeply set brown eyes has a very clear idea of what he wants to say and how he wants to say it.
“Yes, the Almas line is very important and I am proud of it. In fact, it is a good example of Faruk Holdings’ overall strategy and viewpoint about the way we deal with women in society. It represents the fact that women make up 50% of our society. It also reflects their importance as a market and gives them the opportunity to connect in a way they can afford.
But I want to talk about politics first. In Iraq there are quotas that 25% of politicians should be made of women. However, often women in positions of political power are there because of connections, rather than competence. I believe this is wrong. There should be professionalism in all areas of life.”
I hadn’t planned on touching on politics – I try to get back to the private sector and ask whether, in Mr Faruk’s opinion, the private sector has the ability to drive political change?
He leans forward slightly.