Ghufran’s Story: How WFP paves the path to success through innovation

WFP Innovation Accelerator
4 min readApr 26, 2022


Based in Baghdad, Iraq, Ghufran Salim Jabbar, a single mother of two young girls, overcame adversity to achieve success and a promising future for her family. She is an accomplished graduate of the EMPACT (Empowerment in Action) project, implemented by the UN World Food Programme and partners.

By Saif al-Tatooz

Ghufran at the EMPACT centre. Photo: WFP/RIRP.

Iraq suffers from large unemployment rates affecting its mainly youthful population due to the conflict with the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that erupted in large swathes of the country’s northern and western parts. In addition, as of January 2021, in a country of 41.2 million, Iraq’s unemployment rate was more than 10 percentage points higher than its pre-COVID-19 level of 12.7 percent, according to the World Bank.

Ghufran is one example of those thousands of young Iraqis struggling to find a living in these difficult circumstances. A 32 year old mother of two teenage daughters from Baghdad, she tragically lost her husband to the violence in 2013. Getting by day to day was tough; she was unable to find employment in a highly competitive job market despite her diploma in math. “It was very difficult, since I lacked the English language and computer skills that have become essential requirements by many private sector employers,” she recounts.

Enter the World Food Programme with its EMPACT project that is designed to target and provide work opportunities for the youth and women in Iraq. This innovative project provides participants with necessary English language and digital skills that have become basic needs for employment and also enable those enrolled to seek freelance work opportunities online. WFP currently runs EMPACT in six governorates across Iraq.

Attending online lessons from home during COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: WFP/RIRP.

Ghufran was able to quickly utilize her newly acquired skills to not only empower herself as a woman, but make a living for her family, enabling her to take control of her life. In Baghdad, she studied remotely, since the courses were run online by WFP and the Rebuild Iraq Recruitment Program (RIRP).

“I was browsing Facebook for work one day and saw an advertisement for the EMPACT programme. It was intriguing, so I applied and passed the entrance test to join the classes,” says Ghufran.

The opportunity “really existed, that I could do this from my home thanks to the facilitation provided to me by WFP.”

Attending Orientation Training at Zain Telecom. Photo: WFP/RIRP.

After enrolling and completing the four months of online sessions during the COVID-19 lockdown, Ghufran graduated with flying colours. “It was so convenient to take the lessons from the comfort of my home thanks to the laptop and internet subscription provided by WFP,” she says. “This allowed me to learn while staying close to my family.”

The training programme was designed specifically to cater to the needs of young people struggling to find employment.

“We have prioritized young Iraqis, Syrian refugees and vulnerable youth, with a special emphasis on women who head their households as a means to empower them. It is also to demonstrate how they can employ innovation and technology to make a livelihood, something that was thought unachievable by our participants before,” said WFP’s Head of Baghdad Field Office Khansaa Ghazi, responsible for implementing and monitoring the project in Anbar and Baghdad.

Attending Orientation at Zain Telecom. Photo: WFP/RIRP.

A second glimmer of hope came to Ghufran when she managed to land a job opportunity with one of Iraq’s leading telecommunications companies, an opportunity that very few people get. She has already completed her orientation training and is slowly getting to use what she learned to earn an income. It brings Ghufran firmly under the spotlight as a model example of an economically empowered woman in Iraq, who overcame adversity to thrive. This was made possible by generous funding and support of Germany, WFP’s donor for EMPACT activities.

“I would like to thank Germany, WFP and RIRP for this training that improved my life, boosted my self-confidence and helped me to support my family,” says Ghufran confidently in English.

Read more about WFP’s EMPACT innovation project.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.