When Thikra took office in 2015, she became the first female Mayor of Baghdad. In fact, she became the first female leader of any capital city in the Arabic world, quite an achievement.
The downside is that she became mayor of one of the most dangerous cities in the world with one of the lowest qualities of life.
It doesn’t matter what your gender is the Mayor of Baghdad is a tough job.
For some people just straightening out the problems would be enough but Thikra has set some ambitious aims. She has given herself 10 years to revive the city.
It’s not just about repairing war-scarred infrastructure. It’s about celebrating the city’s heritage and restoring Baghdad’s place among the cultural treasures of the world.
When we think of Baghdad we think of violence and destruction and that is precisely what Thikra is trying to change. She’d like to remind us that Baghdad is major centre of culture. It was once widely regarded as a centre for learning and even nicknamed the City of Peace.
Of course, these grand aspirations cannot be realised until she tackles some basic problems. You can start working on the grand visions until you’ve sorted out the fundamentals that support people’s lives.
The list of issues is long and includes things such as functioning drinking water, sewerage and rubbish collection. Not to mention traffic jams, even though the city’s population has shrunk over the last 30 years, the city’s poor roads fail to cope with the traffic that is there.
Thikra’s background is as a civil engineer so she is used to implementing the big infrastructure projects her city desperately needs.
Since she’s taken office things have improved. As she puts it, “I am not saying that the services we offer the population are enough, but we are on the right track.”
Sadly, just having the ability to manage the projects and the desire to do them is not enough. Reconstruction costs.
And Thikra is not exactly swimming in cash, “When I took up my post in 2015, the municipality was bankrupt. I was told that I had to find the financing myself.”
Her budget is 110 billion dinars which sounds like a lot but it is actually just over £65 million. No match for even a small city council in the UK. What she’s being asked to do is rebuild a shattered city with a budget that would barely empty the bins and mend the potholes where we live.
Big, bold, brave
But there’s the rub, just because it is a challenge there is no reason to be daunted. In fact, the bigger the problems the bolder the solution needs to be.
Let’s face it, appointing a female mayor is a bold step for a capital city, London hasn’t managed it yet, never mind the fact that it is the capital city of a country not exactly renowned for women’s rights. Big, brave, bold.
Thikra’s vision is to return Baghdad to its rightful place on world stage by 2030, that is tall order. Never mind the fact that some of the city’s infrastructure is not even meeting basic needs. Big, brave, bold.
That’s what you need to do if you want to be mayor of the month. Big, brave, bold.
That’s how you change things
In a nutshell that is what you can learn from Thikra: it is important to be ambitious, to demand the best from people and to set largescale gaols. Be big. Be brave. Be bold.
She’s even ambitious for the office itself, as she puts it “I may be the first woman in this role, but I will certainly not be the last.”
Baghdad has a long journey ahead of it, but at least Thikra has got them on the road.