Southern Iraq has experienced cycles of conflict and unrest since 2003, leaving the city of Basra, Iraq’s economic capital, and surrounding areas vulnerable to further violence. Since 2014, the area has also been negatively impacted by the rise of ISIS, which led to more than 3.3 million Iraqis becoming refugees in their own country. This unrest has left many young people in the region extremely vulnerable and lacking the skills needed for employment.
Through one of our newest projects – AMAR Community Engagement Centers (ACE Centers) – AMAR will work with local youth to overcome these challenges through job skills training, employment opportunities, and psychosocial support.
The new ACE Centers will allow vulnerable young people in southern Iraq to pursue new economic opportunities, gain protection against gender-based violence, and receive support for psychological trauma. The six new Centers – based in Basra, Mayson, and Baghdad – will target programming to the most vulnerable young men and women, ages 18-30, in each region.
The core programming at the ACE Centers will include vocational, entrepreneurial, and life skills training courses. AMAR will offer classes in IT, English, literacy, numeracy, and other practical skills relevant to the job market in each Center location. In addition to these courses, AMAR will also partner with the International Youth Foundation to implement the highly successful Passport to Success (PTS) curriculum, designed to equip participants with skills to succeed in life and in the workplace.
Skills classes will be open to both young men and women. However, AMAR will prioritize the applications of the most vulnerable and needy candidates, including female heads of household, people with disabilities, and PMF and other returning fighters. To bolster female participation in ACE Center activities, AMAR plans to establish child care centers for children of participants can engage in safe, learning-based play.
In addition to skills training and education opportunities, AMAR also plans to provide Starter Pack to participants interested in setting up their own business. These Starter Packs will be in the form of small grants or equipment to enable participants to kick-start their businesses. Grants will be used to purchase basic equipment or to provide funding for additional resources such as printing services for advertising.
Because so many of the youth in southern Iraq have experienced mental trauma due to the conflict and regional unrest, AMAR will also employ experienced social workers to provide psychosocial support to all ACE Center participants, staff members, and participants’ family members. The Centers will also offer a Human Rights and Violence Prevention Course, meant to raise awareness about gender based violence. The Centers will also sponsor dditional recreational activities, such as handicrafts, sports, art, and music classes for participants to promote stability between IDP and IDP host communities.
As with all AMAR project, the ACE Centers are designed to help rebuild lives. Community members in ACE Center locations will benefit from living in environments where youth are empowered to socially and economically participate in their communities. Youth who have a sense of community and who are engaged in income generating activities are less likely to turn to violent groups such as ISIS, leading to more peaceful, productive communities.