UN Women reiterates commitment to Yazidi survivors at Sixth Lalish Conference

Date:

UN Women reiterates commitment to Yazidi survivors at Sixth Lalish Conference
UN Women Iraq Representative, Ajay Madiwale with Dr. Khanzad Ahmed, addressed the Sixth Lalish Conference for Peace and Coexistence in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).

25 June 2024, Erbil: UN Women Iraq Representative, Ajay Madiwale, addressed the Sixth Lalish Conference for Peace and Coexistence in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), along with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministers of Interior and Endowment and Religious Affairs, the German General Consul Klaus Streicher, the Secretary-General (SG) of the Iraqi High Council for Women and Development (HCWD) Dr. Khanzad Ahmed, and other national and international officials. The conference provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on issues related to peace and coexistence in Sinjar, the 10th anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide and preventing sexual violence in times of conflict.

The SG of the HWCD, Dr. Khanzad, elaborated on the main aim of the conference: “Ten years after the Yazidi Genocide, we want to understand the situation in Sinjar. What are the conditions for the survivors, individuals and the community?”. She also informed that the HWCD’s work strongly focuses on improving the situation of women survivors within the Women Peace and Security (WPS) framework.

Speaking on behalf of KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, KRG Minister for Endowment and Religious Affairs, Pshtiwan Sadq, emphasized the importance of implementing the Sinjar agreement with the support of the Iraqi Government and the international community and facilitating a safe return for Yazidi survivors to their places of origin.

Meanwhile, on behalf of President Abdullatif Rashid, the Iraqi Presidency’s General Director Sagvan Murad held a speech, expressing gratitude to the organizers for hosting a conference that serves as a platform to review past events and take joint action to prevent the recurrence of tragic events by referring to the Yazidi Genocide.

Additionally, the General Consul of Germany, Klaus Streicher reaffirmed his country’s commitment to providing support to Yazidi survivors and combatting sexual violence in conflict. He also recognized the need to support victims in overcoming trauma’s, acknowledging the essence of providing mental health services.  

In his speech, UN Women Iraq Representative Madiwale highlighted socio-economic and psychological challenges that Yazidi survivors are facing which increase their marginalization in society. He further emphasized the importance of providing sustained assistance, improving social norms and strengthening social cohesion to advance the reintegration process of survivors.  Madiwale also urged to raise awareness in Yazidi communities on accountability efforts and their participation in legal processes, as part of a survivor-centered approach.

“Conflict-related sexual violence stems from structural inequality between men and women. Addressing these issues is essential for any long-term solution. We must collectively work to further localize the women’s rights agenda.” Madiwale added.

Madiwale concluded his speech by outlining UN Women’s contributions to women Yazidi survivors by raising awareness and providing direct economic and psychological support services to survivors, including through the implementation of the Second Iraqi National Action Plan on WPS and in close cooperation with Yazidi women-led organizations.

 

Coordination on INAPII

The INAP II is a distinctive action plan that addresses key components pertinent to both the Federal and Kurdistan regions. Ensuring ongoing coordination on each region's main priorities is crucial. UN Women established and reinforced formal coordination mechanisms between the federal and KRG levels to strengthen their participation and ownership for the monitoring of the INAP II.  This also facilitated the exchange of experiences, lessons learned, and best practices, ensuring effective implementation of the INAP II.

At the KRG level, the High Council of Women and Development established the UNSCR1325 KRI board committee to effectively monitor INAPII implementation. The board committee is headed by the Ministry of Interior with membership of the High Council of Women and Development, civil society representing different organizations and geographical locations, donors and UN Women. Within the board, three working groups were created to support key components of the INAP II, namely: (i) implementation (ii) monitoring and evaluation, and (iii) communications.

regional action plan was also developed to effectively implement the INAPII and ensure the commitment of all stakeholders and responsible parties in the Kurdistan region. More than 35 civil society organizations and other government entities engaged in consultations leading to the formulation of the plan. The HCWD successfully engaged decision-making bodies and mobilised resources to support implementation of the plan.

Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Mechanisms for INAPII

UN Women supported the design and development of a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework in partnership with National Gender Machineries and civil society actors, including the 1325 Alliance and Network. The framework outlined the various components of the INAP II, such as strategic outcomes, baseline data and indicators linked to strategic objectives, activities, targets, M&E reporting requirements, budgeting, and the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders concerning the strategic outputs.

In response to feedback from consultations and activities conducted with the government and civil society, and to address the challenges of manually monitoring the INAP's implementation, the concept of automation was introduced for the M&E framework. Digitalizing the framework and hosting it on an online platform ensures more accurate follow-up, better data flow, and prevents duplication or loss of information.

An INAP II web portal was designed and developed in partnership with the government and civil society to automate the M&E framework. This platform facilitates data entry regarding INAP II implementation progress and achievements by all relevant stakeholders, including ministries, non-ministerial entities, and civil society. It allows them to store all information in an easily accessible online location, rather than on spreadsheets and manually written reports. The portal is a comprehensive tool that enables users to extract and generate progress and annual reports, review indicators, revise and approve data entries, and view various components and activities of the INAP II. As such, it has proven to be a very useful instrument, serving as a performance monitoring tool for all involved entities and increasing their accountability regarding INAP II commitments

Despite the development of the NAP II portal to support the effective utilization of the M&E framework, there has been reluctance to use it. This reluctance could stem from several factors, including the need for focal points within relevant entities to receive training on the portal. Additionally, the portal should have been developed and tested in the first year of INAP to assess its effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. Although the portal is now operational, albeit with some minor technical issues, its introduction comes somewhat late, as the focus has shifted to developing INAP III. Therefore, the platform requires more buy-in to mandate its possible use for INAP III.

At the federal level, the capacities of the Divisions of the Department of Women in various ministries were strengthened in planning, monitoring, evaluation, and budgeting. This step was crucial to enhance their ownership and accountability concerning INAP II. As a result of the technical support provided, government staff working in the various divisions and governorates responsible for the WPS and UNSCR 1325 portfolio were able to successfully identify their roles within the overall NAP. This improved their overall understanding of planning and budgeting, to further support the development of localized and sectoral plans.

CSO mapping was done which provided an in-depth analysis of the spatial distribution and attributes of diverse CSO’s operating in Iraq focusing on the WPS agenda. It shed light on the geographic spread and operational capacity of these organisations and included reflections from civil society respondents evaluating their capacity and collaboration with regards to the INAP II.

mid-term evaluation for the INAP II was done to assess the implementation and impact of the NAP II on Iraqi society during the period of 2021-2022, focusing on its three key pillars: participation, protection, and prevention. The mid-term evaluation findings will be used to enlist recommendations to support the development of INAPIII and enhance M&E processes.

Development of Sectoral plans at Ministry and Governorate level

Due to ongoing strategic planning and coordination efforts led by UN Women, a total of 6 sectoral plans at the ministerial level and 2 at the governorate level (Ninewa and Thi-Qar) have been fully endorsed and officially launched. These plans are well-structured, including clear baseline data, indicators, activities, outcomes, results, and budgets outlining the funding needed for implementation. UN Women has collaborated with civil society organizations to assist ministries in executing their sectoral plans.

UN Women's partnerships with local CSOs have provided technical and financial support to ministries as part of the INAP II initiative. This collaboration has resulted in varying levels of cooperation among ministries, with some showing a higher commitment and interest in plan implementation. Key ministries demonstrating significant cooperation include the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MOMD), and the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The MOE's sectoral plan benefited 153 direct beneficiaries through training workshops, resulting in an 88% increase in knowledge about violent extremism and its impact on education. Similarly, MOMD initiatives, such as establishing a women empowerment centre and conducting training workshops, achieved a 90% increase in participant knowledge across various topics. The MOH focused on training staff to respond to violence against women and girls, leading to an 85% increase in knowledge and improved communication within the ministry. In addition to individual ministry efforts, collaborative activities involving multiple ministries, such as MOD, MOMD, and MOH, have focused on integrating women into early warning systems. These joint initiatives have significantly increased participant knowledge and have been supported by localized plans in governorates like Ninewa, Thi-Qar, and Duhok.

In Ninewa, as part of the governorate localised sectoral plan, community empowerment and recovery initiatives, including dialogue sessions and workshops on psychosocial, legal, and health services, have positively impacted participants. Similarly, in Thi-Qar, workshops addressing violent extremism and providing psychosocial, legal, and consultation services have met critical needs, supporting recovery and resilience.

Initiatives are underway to develop a localized plan for Duhok, with new partnerships formed to aid implementation. Overall, the collaborative efforts between UN Women, CSOs, and various ministries underscore a comprehensive approach to advancing the objectives of INAP II.

INAPII Communications Strategy

A communications strategy for INAP II was developed and endorsed in collaboration with civil society, government, and media stakeholders. The plan aims to achieve various outcomes, such as raising public awareness across different governorates about UNSCR 1325 and INAP II, fostering supportive political and social environments for women's participation in decision-making, increasing awareness of available protection mechanisms for women and girls, and involving religious leaders in advocating for tolerance, respect for diversity, and peaceful coexistence.

Activities outlined in the strategy encompass campaigns, workshops, conferences, meetings, and discussion sessions. Responsible entities include government and non-government stakeholders, civil society organizations, media entities, and activists, both women and men.

The 5 main outcomes of the communication strategy include:

  • Outcome 1: Iraqi society have improved understanding and knowledge on the importance of the role of women in peace and security
  • Outcome 2: Women’s participation in leadership and decision-making promotes security and peacebuilding.
  • Outcome 3: Women and girls, particularly inside camps and in areas of return are protected
  • Outcome 4: Women and girls affected by conflict are protected from sexual violence and are reintegrated into society.
  • Outcome 5: A safe environment and a supportive society based on coexistence and the rejection of violence is created for women and girls.

The expected outputs of this plan include – but are not limited to – raising public awareness in various governorates on UNSCR1325 and the INAP II, creating favourable political and social environments for women’s participation at the decision-making level, increasing awareness on protection mechanisms available for women and girls, engaging religious leaders to advocate for tolerance and respect for women, diversity and peaceful coexistence. Interventions and activities of the plan include campaigns, workshops, conferences, meetings and discussion sessions. Responsible entities include government and non-government stakeholders, civil society, media organisations and women and men activists.

Some challenges faced and lessons learned

Iraq witnessed a significant anti-gender campaign marked by widespread protests and social media activism against gender equality initiatives. The campaign was driven by conservative groups who argued that such initiatives threatened traditional cultural and religious values. This movement gained traction, leading to public demonstrations and heated debates in both political and social spheres. The anti-gender campaign also saw the dissemination of misinformation, which exacerbated tensions and resistance to progressive gender policies. Despite the backlash due to the Anti-gender campaign, advocates for gender equality need to continue their efforts, striving to address misconceptions and promote the importance of gender rights in fostering a more inclusive society.

Supporting Women Leaders and WPS advocates

In the political arena, 14 women parliamentarians from diverse parties and regions have received training in leadership, negotiation, conflict management, and advocacy. Participants, representing various political affiliations and including new MPs and committee members, engaged in sessions covering leadership distinctions, innovative managerial theories, political communication in planning and decision-making, conflict resolution methods, negotiation strategies, delegation preparation, advocacy types, stages, and campaign design.

Top-performing women MPs were selected to collaborate with national consultants in developing 6 WPS policy and advocacy papers. These papers address critical areas such as violence against women in politics, the impact of civil society organizations on women's participation in government and decision-making, measures by the Independent High Electoral Commission to ensure transparency and women's rights in electoral processes, discriminatory gaps in the Iraqi labour market, the role of civil society in ensuring security for Iraqi women, and enhancing female voter turnout in Iraqi elections.