Aid & Development

RDPP, UNICEF, UNFPA announce projects to aid survivors of sexual violence in Iraq


International organisations announce the launching of programs that aid and protect women who have faced sexual violence in Iraq after ISIS' invasion.

The European Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced projects on April 24 to protect and support survivors of sexual violence in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, especially women and girls.

In a press release, the three organizations announced €1.85 million ($2.25 million) in funding for projects to “ensure service providers and justice and security personnel have increased capacity to provide age-appropriate survivor-centred services and child friendly juvenile justice. The project will also guarantee quality services to GBV [Gender-based violence] survivors in general.”

UNICEF and the UNFPA will be the primary capacity builders with the RDPP providing the funding platform, although all three will work closely with each other and the Kurdistan Regional Government to implement the projects.

“We know that some women and girls in Iraq have been subject to terrible acts of brutality and their needs cannot be overstated,” said Brigid Kennedy Pfister, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection and Adolescent Development in Iraq.

“It is critical that the judicial, law enforcement, and security personnel are equipped to assist women and child survivors in a compassionate and sensitive manner and to prioritize their rights and needs,” she added.

Nestor Owomuhangi, UNFPA Deputy Representative in Iraq, commented on the importance of the services provided to GBV survivors in Iraq and said: “We have an immense responsibility towards women and girls in Iraq, especially those who are survivors of GBV.”

“The contribution from RDPP will enable UNFPA to strengthen the capacity of its local partners, of decision makers, and services provides across the country to advocate and ensure an overall more survivor-centred approach of GBV intervention,” he explained.

“Working with both UNFPA and UNICEF ensures supporting systems strengthening of duty bearers on GBV, which is key to enhance locally-led and quality response to GBV and to promote a policy framework ensuring adequate prevention.” Vincenzo Schiano Lomoriello, RDPP Liaison and Project Manager, stated.

In this instance, eight European donors are providing the funding through the RDPP: the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Commission, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Although GBV has been recognized as a problem in Iraq and the broader region for some time, it came to international attention after Islamic State attacked the Yezidi community and other minorities in northern Iraq beginning in 2014.

Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Basha, two Yezidi women, who were among thousands of women and girls abducted, tortured and sexually abused by Islamic State fighters, won the prestigious Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament in 2016 for their campaign to fight GBV.

According to the Women’s Refugee Commission, “refugee women are extremely vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation, including rape. Prevention of sexual violence, services for survivors and access to sexual and reproductive health care is critical in crisis situations when vulnerabilities are drastically increased.”

Authorities estimate that there are over 1.4 milllion internally displaced persons or refugees from Syria in the Kurdistan Region. Addressing GBV in Iraq and the Kurdistan region is, therefore, an urgent problem for this vulnerable population.

Nevertheless the issue of GBV is not simply a minority or a refugee issue, but one that affects people, especially women and girls, in all kinds of communities. The training that justice officials receive from UNICEF and the UNFPA are broadly applicable and can have a positive impact beyond the those in urgent need of these programs today.

Image: AFP