All photography provided by Ali Arkady.

In September 2009, 40 Iraqi women gathered in a room in Baghdad. Young and old, some with children, most married, many widowed from the ongoing national conflict. All were excited to learn a new skill and embark on an entrepreneurial journey: starting their own candle business.

 

OVER the next year

These strong, independent women received training in the artful craft of making candles by hand. Each received a custom designed "business-in-a-box" including all the equipment and supplies she would need to perfect her skills.

The first candles

The very first candles to be shipped to the United States were pillars in deep purple and green with a light desert rose scent. They burned beautifully and perfectly, reflecting not only the expertise these women had achieved but their vision for a brighter future for their country. One especially proud woman, Wafa'a who had lost her husband to a mortar that landed on their home, shared her vision:

My dream is that this candle I made will show how Iraqi women are productive and can work and be independent.

Wafa'a and her colleagues have exported over 7,300 handmade pillar candles that continue to brighten homes across the U.S. and Canada.

Today

Today the Akkadian Collection represents the evolution of that first project, a unique partnership between Prosperity Catalyst, a Boston-based nonprofit investing in women entrepreneurs in regions of conflict and natural disaster, and its sister social enterprise Prosperity Candle. Supported by the U.S. State Department, the Akkadian Collection is the first offering of an innovative program helping to create economic opportunites for Iraqi widows.


For the first time in my life I feel that I achieved something, feel myself as a person who is responsible and productive.
— Muda, Candle-Maker, July 2015