Vocational Training for Internally Displaced Iraqi Women
Baghdad, IRAQ – An ambitious vocational training program targeting Baghdad’s internally displaced persons (IDP) stands as a powerful example of what happens when USAID interventions leverage government and community support. The approach is a lynchpin of the Iraq Community Action Program (ICAP), which has garnered buy-in from civilian-led community action groups and local government councils for each of its more than 800 projects.
The Al-Wafa’a IDP community action group provided sewing vocational training for IDPs in workshops organized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. After completion of the training, ICAP distributed sewing machines to women who passed the course successfully.
The vocational training initiative was endorsed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) after an advocacy push by IDP-specific community action groups and their counterparts in local government. All agreed that empowering this vulnerable group – and especially the women within it – would contribute to stability in Baghdad’s neighborhoods and further strengthen the legitimacy of Iraq’s nascent government in the eyes of its constituents.
The 37 women who have so far graduated from two ICAP-supported training workshops in hairdressing and sewing are testament to this. All the participants persisted through the two-month training, and their example has led to equal enthusiasm from the 67 male participants who are due to complete training in welding, carpentry, and vehicle maintenance during April 2012.
The sessions are being held at MOLSA, while ICAP is providing materials and ensuring attendance by providing transportation and the promise of seed resources, such as sewing machines, to enable participants to apply their newly developed skills. Support for potential microenterprises will be coordinated, in part, by the CAGs, which led the effort to nominate and mentor trainees.
All told, the ICAP vocational training program serves as a model for effective local government – coordinated by Iraq’s local councils and civil society leaders in coordination with MOLSA and, through it, the Iraqi central government. What’s more, this intervention is an example of “smart aid” in the new Iraq: catalyzing change through strategic investments in people and processes.
The Iraq Community Action Program is managed by IRD with funding from the US Agency for International Development. The four-year program is scheduled to end in September 2012.