Youth have the ability to be powerful advocates for change. However, limited economic opportunities, little political influence, and a lack of authority in their communities often contribute to situations where young people believe they have few options to improve their lives and make their voices heard. Compounded by a need for belonging, these factors increase the risk that political entities and extremist groups can manipulate young people to join violent movements. In Iraq, this situation has been magnified by over a decade of violent conflict. To help address this issue, PartnersGlobal implemented a two-year program designed to strengthen the civic and social values of young Iraqis, and empower sustainable, youth-driven initiatives in the country.
During this program, PartnersGlobal worked with young Iraqis to develop a cadre of “Champions for Peace” across ten provinces. Provided with mentorship, training, and small grants, these young activists developed their own initiatives designed to improve their local communities. These projects ranged from using sports and art as conflict mediation tools, to suicide awareness and prevention skills for youth. Complementing the small grants aspect of the program were constituency dialogues set up in four cities where youth could raise issues of inclusion with local authorities and offer solutions for problems they saw in their neighborhoods.
The engagement of at-risk youth came at a critical time for the country. With both political uncertainty and the push-and-pull of Daesh militants, young Iraqis are struggling to make their voices heard and be a force for peace. By the conclusion of the program, 70% of participants said that they now felt their voices and opinions were being represented by political leadership. Moreover, these participants reported that they believed politicians were going to be more willing to support their young constituents. This network building between a marginalized group and government authorities will serve to strengthen the bonds of what it means to be Iraqi. The development of mutual respect and dialogue will assist in bringing peace to communities struggling to recover from conflict.
Funded by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor