Hiwa Foundation is a non-governmental organisation based in the city of Sulaimani, Kurdistan, Iraq. Hiwa Rauf and our director, Nian Abdullah, with the vision to educate and empower the people of the region, founded the organisation in 2013. The couple believe that economic growth alone is not enough to rebuild a society in a region subject to political and social unrest. The organisation is built on the ethos that successful individuals within a society have a responsibility to re-invest in the people, the next generation in particular. The region in which we operate has seen some challenging periods. As we all rebuild the country, we believe it is important to invest in the potential of each individual and in the ability of people to grow, to learn, and with the right support, to transcend their circumstances, however difficult.
Since 2013, Hiwa Foundation has supported a diverse range of local projects, translated publications, produced documentaries and distributed educational materials throughout the region. We want people to have access to knowledge from all over the world, so that they can be educated, inspired and empowered.
Co-founder & Chairman
Co-founder & Chairman
Hiwa Rauf is a successful entrepreneur, holding investments in multiple companies. An innovative and driven business professional, he has over 30 years of experience in the construction industry and the telecom and trading business. His expertise has given him a unique understanding of the economic landscape of the region, and his investments into social enterprises demonstrate a core belief that the education of women and girls is one of the most effective ways to reduce the rate of poverty Having a thorough understanding of a region where the workforce is largely male-dominated, Hiwa strongly believes in the need for positive female role models to be visible to society, particularly for the young people of the region.
“Everyone understands that knowledge is power, but unless this knowledge becomes widely available and accessible throughout communities, social change will not be possible. I want to do my part to support this change, empowering women with the tools to help them access the workplace as equal members of society.”
Co-Founder & President
Co-Founder & President
Nian Abdullah, a chemical engineering graduate, is an experienced human resources consultant and strategist. Since graduating from the University of Baghdad in 1980, Nian has worked across a variety of sectors, from sugar mills to clothing factories, and most recently, a multinational telecommunications company. As a successful career woman, Nian has a particular understanding of the specific needs for the development of the Iraqi workforce, particularly young people just starting out in their professional careers. A highly educated woman herself, Nian believes that only with the right education and support will people be able to thrive in society. It is with this vision that Nian decided to establish Hiwa Foundation, with her co-founder and husband, Hiwa. They both saw a need to serve the people of Iraq, not only with basic civic rights, but also with the tools to inspire and encourage communities to develop coping strategies and mechanisms.
“A healthy workforce is about much more than simply the ability to work. A workforce must also be emotionally healthy, with strong communication skills and the ability to feel inspired and inspire others in their community.”
Although Shiereen Saib was born Sulaimani, she was raised and educated in The Netherlands where she obtained her degree in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. A refugee herself, she has remained a passionate advocate of the strength of diversity and an empowered diaspora, becoming the national coordinator of the Youth Council at the Federation of Refugee Organisations at the age of 16. She has served as a legal consultant at the Dutch Refugee Council, and has over 20 years of experience developing and managing projects for a number of organisations in Europe, centering social participation, empowerment and diversity. In 2014 she returned to her hometown, where she first helped set up the Center for Gender and Development Studies at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. In 2016 she became working with Hiwa Foundation, first as a consultant and later as the Head of Programmes.
Shiereen’s involvement in Hiwa Foundation has been warmly welcomed as she has brought with her a wealth of experience in not only project management but also as a trainer and facilitator. She also has broad experience in developing community projects using different forms of art as a starting point. Shiereen has a passion for modern art, travelling and reading.
“As we tend to feel helpless in the face of tragedies of war and trauma, we should not overlook the fact that such circumstances also provide us with the opportunity to bring out the best in ourselves and inspire others to do the same. A community that is trying to heal is also a community very keen to learn, grow and flourish. It is a privilege to be working in a region where people have shown great resilience in the face of adversity.”
Head of Projects and Training
Head of Projects and Training
Chra Akram is a highly qualified and experienced professional with a strong passion for project management and youth development. She holds a Master's degree in Business Administration with a specialization in marketing from the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani. With a proven track record in project management, Chra has honed her skills in project planning, execution, monitoring, and reporting, along with proficiency in project management methodologies and tools.
Chra's impressive career includes her work at Komar University of Science and Technology before joining the Hiwa Foundation team. At Hiwa Foundation, she established a successful training center aimed at empowering youth by fostering their professional and personal growth. She manages the trainings and programs of the center, ensuring their effectiveness and impact. She has also made significant contributions to the foundation, starting as a Communication Officer and quickly excelling in various projects. Her pivotal role in the development and establishment of new projects within the foundation has been commendable.
Chra's educational background, coupled with her extensive experience in project management and youth development, exemplifies her belief in a holistic approach to education. She understands that education goes beyond imparting knowledge and skills, and encompasses the overall well-being and supportive environment for youth.
Creative Project Coordinator
Creative Project Coordinator
Rooz first was introduced to hiwa Foundation as a student at the College of Fine Arts at the University of Sulaimani, as member an exchange group that went to Germany. After graduating as top of her class in the Graphics and Design department, in the summer of 2018, she joined Hiwa Foundation as the Art & Design officer. She is responsible for the design of all the foundation’s productions. She is also responsible for the coordination of Karge Comics Studio, a joint project between Hiwa Foundation and Paia Agency. Since her teenage years Rooz has been involved as a volunteer in a range of cultural and community projects. She is hoping to start her Masters in the coming years and develop herself more as an artist. She is continuously improving her design skills as well.
“Art of all kinds – music, literature, traditional arts, visual arts – are tools for any generation to express their feelings of identity. In our community, that is affected by many forms of trauma, art gives people a great sense of power. “
Razhan S. Hussain is a senior graphic designer and has been working with Hiwa Foundation for almost five years. He has been designing the book covers and collaborating with Hiwa Foundation team on graphic design projects. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from the American University of Iraq - Sulaimani (AUIS). He is very ambitious to be professional in what he is doing right now and have his own business in marketing and creative industry in the upcoming years.
“Working with Hiwa Foundation and knowing this beautiful staff has been a real pleasure to me. As a senior graphic designer, I would put all my efforts to work with Hiwa Foundation to deliver its message.”
Azheen began his career as a translator when he was studying English language in high school, in Shahid Jabar Exemplary High School. He further progressed in his profession when he started studying in Sulaimani College of Medicine. Since his first years in college he worked as a translator for Kurdsat Broadcasting Corporation and his first work with Hiwa Foundation was in his senior year when he cooperated with Hiwa Foundation in innovating College of Medicine’s library. As a part of the project he supervised a group of volunteer students in translating TED talk videos in 2016. Now apart from being responsible for translating different videos, articles and materials for Hiwa Foundation, he is working as a senior resident of Neurosurgery in Shar Hospital.
Hiwa Foundation was the first organization to introduce the internationally renowned TED Talks to Kurdish region of Iraq. And upon resuming the project in 2016 the organization had the biggest impact in promoting translation of the videos and guiding volunteer translators for proper ways of translating the videos. Since then Azheen has been continuously working on translating these inspirational and empowering TED Talks which has ideas worth spreading.
“I was always amazed by what the organization have achieved in working on different aspects of culture and society. The education materials and the different books, videos and articles that they provided were always of the most effective, best quality, and world-class materials. Their achievement in empowering Kurdish women and emphasizing roles of some of the most prominent Kurdish women figures is unprecedented. My aim was to have a role in these various accomplishments.”
Astera is 20 years old and is currently studying Marketing at the University of Sulaimania. Astera likes to become a successful businesses woman. She likes to have a great role in Marketing and be a hardworking marketer. She also likes to participate in a football team and be a good player.I have been volunteering in some other organizations, and I think volunteering will be very helpful to my future and any job that I want to have. I think by volunteering I will gain more experience and use the experience in my life for better purpose. Volunteering is fun and good at the same time, because I can help people more and gain information for myself as well. I chose to work with Hiwa foundation because they are so respectful and nice with their volunteers.Most of Hiwa Foundation’s work is about education, helping teens to grow in a better way, listening to everyone’s opinion, making people to see things in an open minded way, and working on those topics which are more important nowadays.
Dilan is 21 years old and studies Music (piano) at the College of Fine Arts, University of Sulaimania. He also works in one the trending coffee shops. Dilan is a talented upcoming pianist and is also teaching piano. His goal is to continue his music study abroad to develop himself more. He also dreams of performing in Kurdistan and abroad. At the age of 19 I first started volunteering with Hiwa Foundation and I loved manning the book stall at the book exhibitions. The reason for my interest in volunteering with Hiwa Foundation is because of the respectful and professional staff that are working there and also because Hiwa Foundation is an organization that supports young successful students.
Vilya is 22 years old and she is a senior student studying Construction Engineering at the American University of Sulaimania (AUIS). Vilya likes to study interior design in the future and become an interior designer. I love working with the Hiwa Foundation team because they are like a small family and I feel very comfortable working with them. Volunteering for Hiwa Foundation allows me to enhance my communication skills and gain experience. And I love working for the organization because it helps in the education of the members of my community on many different levels.
Alan is 21 years old and he is a third year Film student at the College of Fine Arts, University of Sulaimania. Alan has many goals and aims for the future. He dreams mainly of becoming a film director and through his work engage with the world. Another aim is supporting people financially and morally and help them communicating their voices to the world. I noticed that Hiwa foundation focuses heavily on children and tries to make them happy in various ways and organizes educational activities for them. This for me is one of the most important motivations to join this team and contribute to putting a smile on the faces of these children. I found that volunteering with Hiwa foundation is the best opportunity to getting closer to that dream and achieving a little more of it. It also will help me to know more people that may have the same interests, so that we can work together in the future and increase the support that we can provide.
Honya Hushyar is a student of Film at the College of Fine Arts, University of Sulaimania. She wants to be a successful director and improve Kurdish cinema. Doing anything to serve my community makes me proud and happy, but working with the beautiful staff of Hiwa foundation is a special experience. They serve the community in a different and special way! Their goal is educating the next generation, of course there are many organizations who work really hard to serve the community and educate the next generation, but Hiwa Foundation is different for me and, I’m proud to work with them!
Soza Yasin is 27 years old and studies Scenario and Script (Film) at the College of Fine Arts, University of Sulaimania. She used to work as a Supervisor in a retail shop that rents out wedding gowns and tailored occasion attire. Soza would like to become a supervisor in feature film productions. I have been working for a long time and I have learned a lot. In my opinion working as a volunteer is important to learn new skills and management skills that I might need in my career.