The situation for children worldwide is precarious. Nearly 70% of the world’s children live in countries affected by conflict, and children account for 42% of the global displaced population. Despite almost every country ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the past 30 years, statistics on child poverty, health, education, labor, and violence still paint a dire picture. Iraq and the Kurdistan Region (KRI) are no exception. Child protection remains a critical issue here, where many children – whether in displaced, refugee, or host communities – have been exposed to violence and conflict, and are now facing increased risks of child exploitation and abuse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to these issues, SEED launched our first child protection-focused training program in 2021. The Strengthening Protection Responses to Children & Other Vulnerable Groups training program is designed to strengthen institutional mechanisms for child protection by building the capacity of frontline service providers responsible for serving Kurdistan’s children. SEED’s new curriculum integrates specialized modules on international, national, and legal frameworks related to children’s rights and protection; child protection case management; unaccompanied and separated children (UASC); children associated with armed forces and groups (CAAFAG); and community based child protection mechanisms (CBCPM). It includes three weeks of classroom instruction, each interspersed with four to six weeks of on-the-job coaching at participants’ workplaces to reinforce applied knowledge.
The Strengthening Protection Responses to Children & Other Vulnerable Groups training program is being delivered to more than 40 government personnel from the Directorate of Health (DOH), the Directorate of Labour and Social Affairs (DOLSA), and the Directorate of Combating Violence Against Women and Families (DCVAW) in Duhok. Trainees were selected based on the critical role they play in protecting and safeguarding Kurdistan’s children, and include psychologists, physiotherapists, social workers, legal assistants, teachers, arts and sports instructors, and protection officers. Trainees from multiple offices across the three government agencies will complete the program in diversified cohorts to strengthen coordination and referral pathways between participating institutions and support a robust child protection response.
In expressing their enthusiasm about SEED’s new training program, participants described their work with children and how they understand their respective roles in delivering institutional support to some of the region’s most vulnerable citizens. A police officer from DCVAW, responsible for processing cases of violence against children, observed that SEED’s training is equipping him with new information and resources on how to handle such cases, as well as how to initiate safe and successful referrals to ensure that affected children receive appropriate mental health support. A psychological researcher from DOLSA stated that the content and delivery methods in SEED’s training program are particularly relevant to her work in an orphanage, as she regularly coordinates with other actors to build better futures for child survivors of abuse, neglect and exploitation. For a psychotherapist from DOH, SEED’s training is instilling a better understanding of the developmental impacts of trauma, which will enable her to apply a child-focused lens when working with young survivors of gender-based violence. All training participants have demonstrated a keen interest in addressing this vital issue and supporting the ability of children to flourish and enjoy a dignified childhood. As one participant stressed, “Child protection is a shared responsibility […]. We all need to remember that children are our future.”
As we head into 2022, SEED is excited to continue partnering with these passionate practitioners to refine critical skill sets and strengthen self-care practices. We are proud to invest in our frontline service providers as they strive to build a safe and dignified future for all of Kurdistan’s children.