Safe spaces, secure futures through employment for youth in Iraq
Through the Funding Facility for Stabilization and the Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme, UNDP is creating #SafeSpaces4Youth in Iraq through employment; building hope and securing futures for young people, their families and their country.
“This work is very helpful for me,” says Luma. “I hope I can continue with this work. It’s the only way I can support my family.” In the battle for Mosul, one of her sons lost an eye after being hit by an ISIL car bomb.
Her husband suffers from severe mental illness after ISIL militants tried to kill him, so Lumia is the sole breadwinner for her and her family. She works with a cash for work team supported by UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), which allows her to bring in a small income to support her family. “When I received my first payment, I was very happy to be able to buy electricity for my home,” she explains.
Randy was forced to flee when ISIL invaded the town and lived as an internally displaced person (IDP) with his family for three years in Erbil. When he returned to Bartela, Randy took odd jobs and worked as an electrician but struggled to earn a steady and reliable income and dreamed of being a business owner.
Having worked in his uncle’s barbershop prior to being displaced, Randy, who is a member of the Bartela Christian community, began to save to reopen the business. Upon receiving a cash grant of USD 1,200 from the Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme in October 2017, he wasted no time buying the necessary equipment and materials. King Barber was up and running just over a month later in late November 2017 and Randy became the youngest barbershop owner in Bartella. “Before ISIL I was called the King because I gave the best haircuts,” he explained, “so I thought I should call it King Barber.”
Randy has a new child on the way with his wife and the income from the barbershop is crucial to supporting his growing family. His best friend, Ayaat, who is 21 years old and a Shabak Muslim is Randy’s only employee, and the shop also brings him an important monthly wage. That both Randy, Ayaat and their friends, despite coming from different religious backgrounds, gather in the barbershop to work and socialize makes this a remarkable safe space in a community that previously saw significant tensions between the two groups.
Although the business environment in Bartella is still in the process of rebounding, Randy is happy to have returned to his hometown and particularly to a livelihood opportunity through ICRRP, that through hard work and dedication, he has managed to turn into a career which will be able to support his family for years to come.
Ali is originally from the Old City of Mosul, which was decimated during the battle to liberate the city from ISIL. Ali’s father died five years ago, forcing him to drop out of school when he was only 13 years old in order to support his family. As a worker on the job site of the Al Jamhouryia police station, a project that is funded by UNDP’s FFS, Ali earns an income which supports his family, including his 25-year-old brother who is blind, and unable to work.
Iraq is one of the youngest countries in the world, with Iraqis under 25 years old accounting for some 60% of the population. Years of conflict has taken its toll, and young people, many of whom are the sole breadwinners for their families, struggle to find both short and long-term livelihood opportunities. Youth living across Iraq, in newly liberated areas, and those who are IDPs, returning IDPs, refugees and members of host communities, all struggle with the reality of limited job and career prospects. As of 2017, 15% of male youth and 29.2% of female youth in Iraq were unemployed.
UNDP recognizes the crucial nature of addressing this problem. Unemployed youth remain one of the demographics most vulnerable to radicalization, and livelihoods opportunities from UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme and Funding Facility for Stabilization, are actively supporting the next generation of Iraqis to rebuild their lives and to bring back much needed hope for a safer future; for them, their families and their country.
For many young people, like Lumia and Ali, living in areas of Iraq newly liberated areas from ISIL, short term employment through UNDP’s FFS is the only way to pay for basic services, like electricity and medical care, for their families. For others, like Randy, who was forced to flee, leaving his business, and live as an IDP, long term career development and entrepreneurial opportunities would be out of reach without the support of cash grants, like the one he received from UNDP’s ICRRP. Together, UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization and Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme are working to create #SafeSpaces4Youth and, in that way, build safer and more secure futures for youth across Iraq.