By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Success, growth, career, development signpost from 3D_Creation/Shutterstock)

Women’s centre in Iraq helps women “knit” their lives back together

Three years ago, conflict forced Haneen Ali* to flee her home in Mosul, in northern Iraq. With her parents, she hiked through minefields before finding safety in the Debaga camp.

“The journey was long and tiring,” said Ms. Ali, now 22. “I had to leave my life behind to start a new one at a camp.”

Since 2014, the crisis in Iraq has forced more than 2.3 million people to flee their homes, according to the International Organization for Migration. Violence, poverty and uncertainty continue to uproot communities. Between 12 January and 24 March of this year, some 5,597 displaced families arrived in the Mosul camps.

But Ms. Ali has refused to let these challenges derail her ambitions.

She tried to continue her studies, reading books to educate herself. “I couldn’t just give up,” she said. “Learning from a tent made me feel strong. I felt that I could do much more than just sit around.”

Ms. Ali’s desire for more opportunities brought her to a UNFPA-supported women’s centre run by partner Al-Mesallah.

UNFPA supports 140 such centres throughout Iraq. These facilities offer classes in art, drama and handicrafts, and they refer women and girls to psychosocial support, health facilities and other care.

Teaching and listening

At the women’s centre, Ms. Ali realized she could put her skills to use, not only to learn but to teach as well.

“I knew how to sew from my mother. I used to watch her when I was a child, and I grew up helping her knit some clothes for my siblings,” she said.

She applied to volunteer as a sewing trainer. She was immediately accepted for this responsibility.

Hundreds of women routinely visit the centre to take part in its recreational activities. Many are still recovering from the extreme stress of the conflict and displacement. Others have experienced gender-based violence, which can increase during humanitarian crises.

The women’s centre allows these survivors to seek help and build a sense of community. Ms. Ali has received training that enables her to offer a safe space for listening and sharing.

“These women gather as friends do in a neighbourhood, a casual ladies’ get-together over sewing pieces of clothing,” she said. “Some, however, come with deeper pains. For them sewing this piece of cloth feels like knitting their own lives together and heal their wounds.”

Touching lives

In addition to recreational activities, the women’s centre also provides psychosocial support services, as well as information about addressing and finding help for sexual harassment, domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence.

Ms. Ali also supports these sessions.

Today, Ms. Ali has touched the lives of hundreds of young women, and she has become one of the most trusted figures in the centre.

She says that her role as a teacher is actually something even bigger.

“It is not about sewing, to be honest,” she said. “These women attend the sessions I give looking for a friend, for an escape, for a place where they can forget their miseries and feel useful.”

*Name changed for protection and privacy

(Source: UNFPA)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

Number of Returns Exceeds Number of Displaced Iraqis: UN Migration Agency

For the first time since the beginning of the Iraq crisis in December 2013, the number of people returning to their area of origin has surpassed the number of people displaced in the country.

Over the past four years, the country has been deeply affected by the conflict with ISIL, which led to the displacement of nearly six million people. Prime Minister Abadi announced Iraq’s victory over ISIL on 9 December 2017; by the end of 2017 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, identified 3.2 million people, who have returned back to their place of origin, while a staggering 2.6 million remained displaced.

Following the improvement of the security situation in retaken areas, a sizable number of internally displaced Iraqis have returned to their location of origin, mainly to the Governorates of Anbar (38 per cent; more than 1.2 million people), Ninewa (30 per cent; nearly 975,000 people), and Salah al-Din (14 per cent; nearly 460,000 people). These three governorates were the worst affected by ISIL’s occupation, and count for 86 per cent of the current displaced population in the country.

Shortly after the operation to retake Mosul was launched in October 2016, IOM Iraq constructed two emergency displacement sites, one in Haj Ali and one in Qayara, with combined capacity of sheltering 110,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). The sites were constructed in partnership with the Government’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement; both sites are located in the southeast of Ninewa governorate.

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

As the Iraqi Government celebrated its final victory over ISIL this week, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, released a new study, which shows that 90 per cent of displaced Iraqis are determined to return home. This is similar to the long-term intentions recorded in 2016.

More than 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to their places of origin so far in 2017. In total since the start of the crisis in 2014, IOM estimates that more than 2.8 million displaced Iraqis have returned, while more than 2.9 million people remain displaced.

The IOM study, Integrated Location Assessment (ILA) analyzes both displacement and return movements of conflict-affected people across Iraq. Approximately 2.1 million displaced persons and more than 1.6 million returnees, based in 3,583 locations across Iraq, have been covered in the assessment, which was carried out between March and May 2017.

Only in Basrah and Najaf did families report that they consider integrating into the local community, where they are displaced.

According to the findings, Anbar was the single governorate where most returns took place in both 2016 and 2017, followed by Ninewa in 2017.

Among the main findings, this study identifies that residential and infrastructure damage is widespread. Nearly one third of returnees are reported to have returned to houses that have suffered significant damage, and 60 per cent to moderately damaged residences. Regarding infrastructure, most damage appears to affect roads, followed by the public power grid and water networks.